Midnight Movie - The 400 Blows

Fri 11 March 2005 // 00:00

Francois Truffaut / 1959 / France / 94 mins / cert PG
(Fri 11th @ midnight & Sun 13th @ 4pm / £4/3)

When the 27 year old FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT's debut film was released in 1959, it heralded not only the arrival of a major new cinematic talent, but also the beginning of a new movement in European film: the French New
Wave. However, unlike the naïve, mawkish films so often associated with that movement, THE 400 BLOWS was a mature work of filmmaking craft that didn't try to break any filmmaking rules, merely refresh the way the existing ones were used.

The story is both a study of childhood and a paean to cinema, and most importantly, it charts the intersection of both. The 12 year old Antoine Doinel is easily recognisable as a surrogate for the director. He also serves as a very identifiable way into the film for an audience, demanding empathy that is expertly nurtured by his representation and the gently subjective portrayal of his experiences.

Doinel grows notably in the film, perhaps not becoming cynical but certainly making a transition in his child hood. This is contrasted with many other children seen throughout the film, often shown with unfettered, skipping innocence.
Furthermore, Truffaut counterpoints Doinel's awareness of his elder's motives with their persistant misunderstanding of him. This is perhaps a partly deliberate misunderstanding - but if so, that is a question the film asks without pretending to know the answer to.