Truffaut, Francois: Career Shape and Differences from Godard

Francois Truffaut, leader of the French New Wave began his career on extremely high note, The 400 Blows, in 1959, at the age of 27.

He followed that picture with two other great works, Shoot the Piano Player, in 1960, which was critically acclaimed but a commercial flop, and Jules et Jim (1961), arguably his mot fully realized and best-known film.

The shape of his subsequence career, which was cut short by his untimely death in 1984 (age 52), demonstrates the problems faced by directors who make brilliant debuts, reaching their peak early on in their lives, but then unable to match that great beginning with later works.

In this respect, Truffaut’s career differs sharply from that of his peer (and friend) at the time, Jean-Luc Godard, whose first film, Breathless (made in the same year as The 400 Blows), was well-received but is much simpler and less distinguished than Truffaut’s first work.

Significantly, unlike Truffaut, Godard continued to develop, surprise, and innovate in the next half a century, seldom repeating himself, and almost always keeping his artistry alert and poignant.