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Reviews & Ratings for
The 400 Blows More at IMDbPro »Les quatre cents coups (original title)

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

François Truffaut's debut was a masterpiece

Author: psagray from Spain
22 August 2011

François Truffaut was one of the best French critics past director and his letter is "Les 400 coups", a good example of this. The start of the "Antoine Doinel" (Jean-Pierre Léaud), series is dedicated to a movie fresh, dynamic, without a second to rest or boredom. A perfect example That cinema should be culture and at the same time, entertain, serve as escape. And that Truffaut has succeeded in most of his films, something that few directors have achieved.

François Truffaut is responsible for this dark urban tale, the film summit "novelle vague" French, one of the best debuts in film history. This debut feature tells the vicissitudes of "Antoine Doinel" a child whose life does not smile, your teacher will not tolerate it, hates his mother and his father ends up feeling the same after "Antoine" and best friend begin to make mischief.

It is a beautiful but very sad story, drawn with great skill and with a screenplay by Marcel Moussy with Truffaut. It is a deeply self-biographical film, and dedicated to his mentor André Bazin.

The film is well made, has a good photography, with a melancholy and nostalgic soundtrack, excellent performances for both children and adults, and an argument that many will shed tears for its crudeness. This works and this film take place among the great films of the good cinema.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Luckily Truffaut didn't stop with `The Four Hundred Blows"

Author: Duane A. Neitzel from Richland, Washington
3 August 2000

"The Four Hundred Blows (Quatre cents coups, Les )" ***. (1959, French, R, 94 min Directed and co-written by François Truffaut with Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy). `The Four Hundred Blows' is idiomatic French for raising hell. Which I found to be a strange title after someone explained the meaning. No one in this movie is really raising hell nor forcing hell on others. Antoine Doinel (Léaud) is a 14 year-old Parisian boy and a superficial view of his life is not idyllic but hardly hellish. His mom (Maurier) isn't the most attentive person in the world. She is busy with a lot of things besides being a mom. She has a lover, a fact about his mom that isn't a point of pride with Antoine. Antoine has a stepfather (Rémy). Again, not the most attentive of parents. Antoine isn't a good student. All in all it's not the easiest of lives but nothing worth raising hell about. And the hell he raises, isn't that big a deal. He skips school. He gets caught stealing a typewriter. (Actually he gets caught returning the typewriter when he finds out he can't fence it.) Antoine ends up in a reformatory and escapes, ending up on the shores of the North Sea. In what has become a relatively famous scene from French cinema, Antoine turns back from the sea and looks straight into the camera.

What's intriguing and very good about `The Four Hundred Blows' is Truffaut's story telling techniques. It is a very straightforward telling of a few events. The camera often holds on a subject for a very long time. In one scene, a police or school psychiatrist is questioning Antoine and the camera never moves from his face. Truffaut is very matter of fact about the events of Antoine life. There are no really bad people in Antoine's life. It doesn't seem overly traumatic that he skips school, sees his mother with her lover, or that his parents agree to send him to a reform school. In the final scene on the shores of the North Sea, we see a confused and sad young kid. Is he going to lead a life of raising hell, a life of stifling boredom, or will he accomplish greatness? Truffaut doesn't tell us and it made me want to see the sequel. Luckily Truffaut didn't stop with `The Four Hundred Blows.' `Love at Twenty', `Stolen Kisses', `Bed and Board' and `Love on the Run' continue this semi-autobiographical story of the young Parisian.

`The Four Hundred Blows' is available on video. I recommend you rent it.

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21 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

Dull and pointless.

Author: Steven Allen from United Kingdom
25 January 2010

To start off, I would like to point out that I am not a hater of foreign or B&W films, and I also have respect for different artistic styles in cinema. But this film was simply terrible.

The protagonist fails to develop or evolve in any way. So many people have described the boy as being "misunderstood", and authority is considered the villain...but this is NOT a film about a misunderstood child being victimised for no reason. He is given plenty of fair opportunities to improve and redeem himself from his selfish, reckless actions, but he shoots them all down and continues to do wrong until his parents are forced to go to extreme measures to control him...and even then, he does not change. There is absolutely no character journey.

We are also shown a great amount of long, pointless shots that do nothing to advance the plot, nor carry any discernible symbolism.

The whole experience is a slow, dull observation of a dislikable boy reaping what he has sewn time and time again, without learning from his mistakes. Painfully pointless, and unrecommended if you value good characters and plot.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Wild Child

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
14 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Francois Truffaut's first feature, and like many first features it's semi-autobiographical. Well, there's nothing wrong with that. As Joyce advised, "Wipe your glosses with what you know." There are only two cautions to be observed. One is that your first story, about yourself, doesn't turn you into a moral paragon. The second is that, having gotten that initial material out of your system, you have the industry and talent to go on to other things -- not necessarily less personal, but less heavily invested. Truffaut managed to rise well above his beginnings.

Jean-Pierre Leaud is the boy of about twelve who lives in a shabby and cramped apartment in Paris with a mother who, though she sometimes tries her best to act otherwise, doesn't really want him and never has. Leaud's father doesn't mind the kid, but things are tough. Both parents work. The mother is being unfaithful and the father is distant.

So Leaud begins to get into trouble at school. (And what a run-down, working-class school it is.) He writes graffiti, gets caught, gets punished, but seems to learn nothing from it, nor from forging a note excusing his absence by claiming that his mother has died. He winds up running away from home, stealing a typewriter, getting caught, and sent to an "observation camp" where he's subject to tough love and interviews by a social worker. He runs away from the camp too and the last scene is of Leaud chugging along a wide strand, splashing through the tiny waves of icy sea water.

Truffaut doesn't give Leaud easy excuses. He's gone through tribulations, certainly, but so have many of the other kids in his class. And at least Leaud wasn't sexually abused as a child -- the kiss of death in movies these days. But his story isn't one of a born delinquent either. He takes no pleasure in destroying things or in hurting or disappointing others. He exploits nobody.

And the parents themselves aren't evil or weak. Their foibles are recognizably human. His parents only rarely indulge him but they never beat him. The boy may live in a bare apartment with cracked walls and not enough furniture or heat, but so do his mother and father, so they're subject to the same physical stressors.

In fact, there's nobody in the whole movie who is entirely evil or entirely good, despite the fact that the film is in black and white.

There is a vein of comedy in it too. Their language teacher is trying to get them to pronounce English correctly. "Where is the girl?", he asks one student in clear and precise tones. "At the bitch," replies the student, and the teacher explodes in a volcano of insults in French -- and he stutters! Overall, what you're most likely to get out of this film is a sense of Truffaut's abiding pity for the human condition. Take the Punch and Judy show that we see a couple of dozen young kids watching. The camera pans slowly across their faces, and we see them laughing and yelling -- and we see their misshapen heads, their diminutive chins, their crossed eyes, and those ears that kids of that age tend to have, like African elephants sticking out from their skulls, all ready to flap with excitement. You have to love kids to love that kind of ugliness.

The style is grainy and documentary with only occasional touches of art that are noticeable enough to call attention to themselves. Two kids sit on a bench in a wintry garden and talk about their hated parents while the camera deliberately lifts itself to a syrupy statue above them in which a loving mother is kissing a cherub.

And that last shot -- a freeze frame of Leaud on the beach at the end of his tether, unable to go forward into the sea, unable to retreat to the camp he's just escaped from. The image is still and Leaud is captured staring into the camera lens, waiting, as it were, for the audience to judge him. We, the jury.

Truffaut was one of the New Wave of French directors, most of them formerly critics for a French magazine. (They gave us the term "film noir.") Jean-Luc Goddard was another. But I think Truffaut leaves Goddard in the dust. Goddard is far more fashionable because of his on-screen pyrotechnics. He up-ended the grammar of film, as if to say, "Look at me, Ma!" What he did to editing alone was what Sinead O'Connor did to the Pope's photo. And he was political in the right way for the time. But he lacks Truffaut's essential humanity or, let's be honest, his humility. Maybe it's just me but compassion seems a more evolved emotion than aggression. I wonder if Truffaut ever read Rousseau.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Well made but the story just didn't grab me

Author: sme_no_densetsu from Canada
24 July 2011

François Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" is routinely listed as one of the greatest films in all of foreign cinema. At the time of its release it was hailed as an important film and subsequently proved to be immensely influential in the context of the French New Wave.

The semi-autobiographical story concerns a Parisian adolescent (Jean-Pierre Léaud) who attempts to escape problems at home and at school by delving into a life of petty crime. Unfortunately, he never receives more than a temporary respite from his predicament and frequently ends up deeper in trouble. The script is fairly loose and strives for realism above all else.

Enforcing Truffaut's aim of realism is the group of actors that he assembled. Léaud indisputably carries the film, at once delivering an authentic performance while also showing a maturity beyond his years. While not quite as impressive, the supporting cast is nevertheless uniformly solid, perhaps none moreso than Guy Decomble as Antoine's antagonist at school.

Truffaut's direction is exceedingly well-handled, not to mention impressive for a debut feature. The film also sports attractive cinematography and a lively score by Jean Constantin.

Indeed, the film can scarcely be faulted for any flaw in its construction or execution. Instead, my tempered enthusiasm is the result of feeling a certain amount of detachment from the main character. Naturally, this sort of objection is largely personal so your mileage may vary.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

It's well made but it won't be on any of my top-lists.

Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
9 October 2011

It's of course ridicules to call this movie a bad one but as far as so called new wave French movies go, this isn't the best example of it, in my opinion.

Can't really see how people can call this one of the most powerful and emotional drama's ever made, unless you perhaps had a tough youth yourself and can identify yourself with its young main character. Perhaps it's also due to the fact that it is of course being placed in a totally different time period, at also a different country and culture but personally I couldn't really place myself in his shoes because throughout the movie he's doing some things that I can't see myself ever doing or saying to someone.

But this is perhaps also one of the powers of the movie, at the same time. It's not showing things and people as just black and white, good or bad but it more shows that nobody is truly a good or a bad person. Sometimes it are certain circumstances that force us to do things in order to 'survive' in this world. Whether or not you like it, you sometimes have to do things you know you're later going to regret.

In that regard this is a quite good random slice of life, or a coming of age movie. You could take the movie both these ways really, since it for a change is a movie that entirely focuses on its young main character and tells the entire story from his perspective. It's an original but also risky approach to the genre, that in this case did work out, also really thanks to Jean-Pierre Léaud, who plays the young boy.

So it all in all really remains a well put together movie, by François Truffaut, that just didn't really ever got to me at a more emotional level. Extra praise should be send Truffaut's way though, since this movie actually was his first full length movie and he made at a quite a young age as well. Definitely not a bad first movie by him, though thankfully still he and his movies grew better over the years.


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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Dated !! .. Still Not Bad Though !!

Author: Faisal_Flamingo ( from Riyadh City
17 November 2006

I'm not a big fan of François Truffaut .. never was .. I don't see what is so great about his movies .. I only have seen three and I'm a little bit hesitated to watch "Fahrenheit 451".

The 400 blows has some powerful meanings and many appreciate it for its historical importance as one of the first (if not the first already) new wave movies in French cinema history.

The best thing in the movie .. in my point of view is the kid Jean-Pierre Léaud performance.

The movie is dated .. still has some of its wonderful meanings but it is not a joy to watch, I believe.

Watch it out of curiosity .. after all, it is just my opinion and you probably need a 2nd opinion about it.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Truffaut's Bulls-eye

Author: raaesquire from United States
29 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The 400 Blows is a film that every teenager must see. When I was 14 (Antonie's age in the film I suppose), I hated everything. I hated school, I hated living with my parents, and I didn't want to be subordinate to society on the whole. To put it simply, I wanted to just get out there and live my life instead of being picked on by school teachers and essentially be an outcast amongst my peers, who were spoiled rich white males thinking with their you know whats instead of their brains. Antonie Doinel is a character who used his mind and what did he get? He was sent to reform school. He possesses the traits of every average adolescent male. He wants to expand his mind (he reads Balzac), doesn't do his work, riles up the teacher, doesn't really get along with his parents (although his father seems to have more vested interest in the boy), defaces classroom walls, and looks at and defaces pinups. Quite simply, his character is one of the most complex to ever be created.

In short, The 400 Blows is about an unwanted teenaged boy who submits to the world of petty crime when the rest of the world has turned his back on him. There's an interesting line that Antoine's father says to him at the beginning of the film. The boy is running back from the grocery store with flour for his mother and he runs into his dad coming home from work. "Always running son, eh?" And that's what we see for the full 99 minutes of The 400 Blows. Sure, Antoine is actually running (especially at the emotional climax) but he's psychologically running away from the very people holding him back from breaking out in the world, be it his parents, the authorities, and so forth. There is so much other things that we see that cannot be fit into this review. Antoine and his friend Rene skip school one day and go around town. Antoine goes into a gravitron, which is an amusement park ride that spins around in circles. And that's what his life is doing: he may enjoy the ride for the time being, but he's ending up where he started from.

The film is not without humor, though. One cannot help but laugh when Antoine tells his teacher after skipping class that his mother died. "Personal preference obviously," his father says in response to the mother venting about such news. Also, Antoine's letter to his parents explaining why he ran away sounds like an adult wrote it, but there is some humor to it. "We'll discuss all that's happened" it says. Even Antoine getting expelled from school after plagiarizing Balzac is pretty humorous and he decides not to go home and live with Rene. They end up stealing little things such as posters, clocks, and they go to the movies. However, when he pinches a typewriter from his father's office, that's the end of his little rebellion. He is sent to a correctional facility (and this is an emotional scene, as the boy is placed in a police wagon and cries as he takes a look of the streets of Paris at night). Perhaps the most emotional scenes take place in the final portion of the film. Antoine is placed under psychiatric evaluation, where he reveals he was born out of wedlock and his mother wanted an abortion (this is hinted at in the beginning when he runs in on a conversation between two old ladies talking about forceps and a Cesarean section...perhaps they were indeed talking about an abortion procedure. Antoine feels uncomfortable around this conversation and we can see it). He can't see Rene when he visits, and his mother tells him he's on his own (although I wished Antoine would've told her "I hate you").

After briefly listening to a young delinquent who was caught trying to escape, Antoine decides to do so and bolts during a soccer game. We just see Antoine running, and running, and running. There's no music at first until he gets to the ocean. Truffaut pulls the cameras back and we see an endless horizon, endless opportunities for our young protagonist. The musical score plays and this is where I continue to get misty eyed with every viewing. Antoine, who has never seen the ocean, runs within the current, but has nowhere to go. The film ends in the famous freeze frame with a closeup of the boy's face. Either he's been caught, doesn't know what to do, or this mimics the mugshot sequence that we saw before he went into the correctional facility. The ending leaves a lot to the imagination, but there's one thing that cannot be imagined: The 400 Blows is easily the most touching film I've ever seen. I don't think I'll see another one quite like this.

Everything seems to lock into place here. The acting superbly executes brilliant dialogue. Truffaut has some innovative camera movements (the darkening of the corridor while Antoine takes out the garbage and the final shot are examples of this) throughout. The musical score is beautiful. And, France isn't portrayed as this very romantic country. No, it is dark, it is gloomy. This is the dark side of this very storied nation. Here, Francois Truffaut tells his story to the viewer. When I first bought 400 Blows, I didn't know what to expect. I figured I'd pick it up because 46 years after its initial release there was still a lot of critical buzz around it. I'm glad I spent the 30 dollars on this film, easily my favorite of all time next to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I only have one complaint: I wish I'd have seen The 400 Blows when I was 14. It probably would have saved my life more than the music I was listening to.

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24 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

Living a wild life

Author: dbdumonteil
5 August 2001

This film aka "the four hundred blows" is a mistranslation.Faire les 400 coups" means"to live a wild life. As a French,I'm stunned when I see the popularity of this good ,but by no means outstanding film. 1.It's not the first film of the "nouvelle vague" move;check Agnes Varda's "la pointe courte",(1956)Alain Resnais's "Hiroshima mon amour"(1958),Claude Chabrol's "le beau serge"(1958) are anterior .Historically,"les 400 coups " comes after. 2.The "nouvelle vague" was sometimes ponderous and hard on their predecessors:Overnight,Julien Duvivier,Henri-George Clouzot,Claude Autant-Lara ,Yves allégret and a lot of others were doomed to oblivion.THis selfishness and this contempt is typically "nouvelle vague".You 've never heard (or read) the great generation of the thirties (Renoir,Carné,Grémillon,Duvivier already,Feyder) laugh at ,say,Maurice Tourneur or Max Linder.So,thanks to Truffaut and co,some people will never discover some gems of the French fifties or forties(Duvuvier's "sous le ciel de Paris",Autant-Lara's "douce",Yves Allégret's "une si jolie petite plage " and "manèges").THe novelle vague clique went as far as saying that William Wyler,Georges Stevens and Fred Zinemann were worthless! 3."Les 400 coups " is technically rather disappointing:it's very academic ,the story is as linear as it can be,the teachers are caricatures,and the mother Claire Maurier delivers such memorable lines as (you've got to be a French circa 1960 to understand how ridiculous it is): Well ,your father 's got only his brevet (junior school diploma)and,as for me ,I've got only my high school diploma!You've got to know,that circa 1960,hardly 10%of the pupils had the HSD in France! Antoine Doinel should have been proud of his mother after all!She wants him to have diplomas,who can blame her? 4.Compared to the innovations of "Hiroshima mon amour",which features a brand new form,and a new "fragmented " content,"les 400 coups " pales into significance.Truffaut will master a new form only with the highly superior "Jules and Jim", helped by the incomparable Jeanne Moreau. 5.The interpretation is rather stiff;Jean-Pierre Léaud ,arguably listenable when dubbed in English ,is still decent,but he will soon degenerate into the most affected of his generation. 6.The topic=stolen childhood had better days,before (Julien Duvivier's "Poil de carotte" ,Luis Bunuel's "los olvidados") and will have after (Maurice Pialat's "l'enfance nue",Kenneth Loach's "Kes") I do not want to demean Truffaut,his movie is not bad,but,frankly,French movie buffs,prefer "Jules and Jim" "l'enfant sauvage" (a film honest ,true and commercially uncompromizing to a fault)"l'argent de poche"(as academic as "400 coups" but much more funny)or his nice Hitchcock pastiche "vivement dimanche".

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Unwanted child with no place to hide

Author: evening1 from United States
1 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A very sad movie about a neglected boy and the adults who brutalize him.

Filmed in evocative black and white, this movie does a great job of showing this kid's isolation. His shallow, self-centered mother uses him as a chore servant. His father's only contribution seems to have been giving him a last name. His snarling teacher barely tolerates him. And his supervisor at the reformatory is memorable only for giving the boy one of the more loathsome slaps on film.

How interesting that the boy is seen at his most vulnerable in what seems to be his only sincere interaction with an adult, during an interview with an unseen female psychologist.

I caught this movie on TCM and was disappointed to hear that some four other sequel movies followed with actor Leaud and director Truffaut. For me, this fact took some of the power from the final scene of this film, in which the boy has run as far as he can. His final expression is devastating.

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