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.Written by
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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