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THE 400 BLOWS, 1959
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  MOVIE POSTERTHE 400 BLOWS, 1959
Movie Reviews

Director: Francois Truffaut

Stars: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy and Claire Maurier

Review by Russell Hill

SYNOPSIS:

An unhappy twelve year old boy living in Paris resorts to crime in order to better his life.

REVIEW:

I first came across this film whilst studying at college. Alongside many other people in my class, I didn't like black and white films, largely because I hadn't seen any at all apart from the occasional Carry On film. After watching it, I knew that I had made a big mistake and there was a treasure trove of amazing black and white films to unearth.

One of the most highly revered films of the 20th century, Les Quatre Cent Coups is a landmark film. Released at the height of the French New Wave where filmmakers were debating whether a film auteur existed, Les Quatre Cent Coups aimed to prove all the critics wrong and that a director was the person who was directly responsible for all aspects of a film because it was his vision and nobody else's.

Les Quatre Cent Coups takes place in Paris. Antoine (Léaud) is a typical teenager. The late fifties was when the word ‘teenager' first came to prominence; before then, children grew up and went to work once they left school. Antoine does not have a great time at school and is tormented by a teacher who regards every movement of his as being suspicious. Antoine's home life isn't rosy either, especially as his mother (Maurier) hates him and his father (Rémy) only cares enough to feed and clothe him. Antoine becomes bored with his life and turns to a life of crime. He doesn't rob a bank or commit any serious crime because he actually steals a typewriter.

Tired of his shenanigans, Antoine is sent to an observation centre alongside other troubled youths. However, Antoine believes that he shouldn't be there and must escape. Will Antoine ever leave the place he finds himself in?

Truffaut first suggested auteur theory and Les Quatre Cent Coups is his finest attempt at trying to prove that it does exist. The film is semi-autobiographical, especially as he remarked that his own childhood was not a happy time for him. The film was made at a time of huge technological advancement and handheld cameras are used throughout. The film has a grim, kitchen sink tone but this adds to the whole aura of the movie, especially as we the audience are meant to sympathise with Antoine's predicament.

Léaud is splendid as Antoine. His acting debut, Léaud went on to star in many other films by Truffaut. An inspiration for one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Léaud was only fourteen when this film was made and its inspiring work from someone so young. His supporting players also do a fine job. Rémy might be a stereotypical father figure who does nothing but shout and disapprove of his child but, alongside Maurier, they both play a very convincing couple who are obviously concerned about the path in life which their son has chosen.

So, if you're like me and do not fully appreciate black and white films, you're in for a big surprise when you watch Les Quatre Cent Coups. It is Truffaut's most care-free film and the themes which he includes might be ones which you could identify with. Beautifully shot on the streets of Paris, it is a film to savour.

ACTORFrançois Truffaut
Best of the ARTIST
ACTORJean-Pierre Léaud
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ACTORPatrick Auffay
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ACTORDaniel Couturier
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ACTORClaire Maurier
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ACTORAlbert Rémy
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ACTORGuy Decomble
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ACTORGeorges Flamant
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THE 400 BLOWS, 1959