Four Hundred Blows (aka The 400 Blows)–Truffaut’s Stunning Debut

Francois Truffaut’s stunning debut, The 400 Blows, is one of the landmark films that launched the French New Wave.

This captivating, semi-autobiographical study concerns a Parisian youth, who turns to life of small-time crime as a reaction to all kinds of force, especially derelict parents.

The 400 Blows was the first film of Francois Truffaut, who went on to become one of the most important international filmmakers.

Truffaut said at the time: “Adolescence leaves pleasant memories only for adults who can’t remember.  When you’re in that difficult age, the thirteenth year is your bad luck time: discovery of injustice, first sexual curiosity left unsatisfied, too early desire for social independence, and often lack of family affection.”

An in-depth portrait of an adolescent hero, with sympathy and insight, The 400 Blows may well be Truffaut’s finest character study in an illustrious career spanning 25 years; he died untimely in 1984 at the age of 52.

The school and family backgrounds are depicted with authenticity and freshness.  The director’s attitude to his subject matter is neutral and non-judgmental; he makes fresh observations without much commentary, and there is no melodrama in handling the hero’s fate.  The movie can be considered as the cinematic equivalent of an autobiographical first novel.

The film’s star, Jean-Pierre Leaud, continued to play the role of Antoine Doinel in a cycle of films directed by Truffaut, including: Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board, and Love on the Run.

Truffaut began his career as a film critic for the prestigious publication Cahiers du Cinema.  Among Truffaut’s many great films are: Jules and Jim ( which will be screened next week), Fahrenheit 451 (l966), starring Julie Christie, The Bride Wore Black, with Jeanne Moreau, the Oscar-winning Day for Night, and The Last Metro.  The director is also known for his definitive study, Hitchcock, based on a series of interviews with the Master of suspense.


Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Original Screenplay: Francois Truffaut and Marcel Mousy


Oscar Context:

The winner of the Original Screenplay Oscar was the comedy “Pillow Talk.”