Every day life, however 'real' and gritty it may be, is rarely portrayed on film and was certainly a rarity in the 1950's. In Europe however, there was a movement in film-making that embraced this realism and searched for the deeper meaning in the 'here and now'. This is about the most basic and miniscule portion of the meaning behind the French New Wave of the 1950's films that explored the filmmaker's surroundings, and eventually became an inspiration for filmmakers around the world. Francois Truffaut's 'The 400 Blows' is one of the most well-known films of this movement, and has been embraced and hailed as one of the greatest films of all time.
After viewing Truffaut's 'The 400 Blows', I have been ruminating over the deeper meaning behind his story of Antoine Doinel, a 14 year old boy in Paris who is having trouble in school and trouble at home. In school, he is marginalized as a trouble-maker, yet it is obvious that it is more a matter of him causing trouble by expressing himself creatively rather than following along with mundane assignments. At home, Doinel has to deal with an adulterous mother who only pays attention to him when it suits her needs, and a father who is barely present. Doinel responds by doing the only thing he feels he can do, and that is by acting up; eventually earning an expulsion from school and being sent to a juvenile prison camp by his parents.
Nothing is cut and dry in 'The 400 Blows'. If one were to take the film at face value, there would be a 'so what' feeling. What the film subtly explores is the disenfranchisement of youth. There is no joy in Doinel's life anytime he tries to express himself creatively or acts up in a playful way he is shot down and metaphorically forced back into line. This is not a typical Paris street kid either, this is one who reads Balzac for pleasure and conveys intense emotion. The problem is that no one is there to notice or care. Another aspect of the French New Wave was that the films were not merely a product of a Hollywood factory; these were intensely personal films to the writers and directors. In the case of 'The 400 Blows', it is certain that Doinel is based on Truffaut, himself only 28 when he made the film. Truffaut's cinematography in 'The 400 Blows' is exquisite. We see a Paris that is not in Technicolor with colorful fountains like 'An American in Paris'. This is Paris from a Parisian's perspective and the difference is breathtaking and intense. These are not Louis XVI style houses, they are tiny flats where people have to sleep in closets and walk up and down six flights of stairs. The city views are those of a native Parisian the kind of tour one would get if they asked the average Parisian for non-tourist attractions.
There is still a lot that I have to learn and think about 'The 400 Blows' and French New Wave in general, but with the minute amount of understanding I have of it, I found it to be an intense film, one that left me emotional and craving enlightenment. Rarely is there a film that leaves that kind of impact on me, but Truffaut managed to leave me speechless and deep in thought with 'The Four Hundred Blows'.
The 400 Blows
Crime / Drama
The 400 Blows
Crime / Drama
Seemingly in constant trouble at school, 14-year-old Antoine Doinel returns at the end of every day to a drab, unhappy home life. His parents have little money and he sleeps on a couch that's been pushed into the kitchen. His parents bicker constantly and he knows his mother is having an affair. He decides to skip school and begins a downward spiral of lies and theft. His parents are at their wits' end, and after he's stopped by the police, they decide the best thing would be to let Antoine face the consequences. He's sent to a juvenile detention facility where he doesn't do much better. He does manage to escape however.
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April 15, 2019 at 03:31 AM