Sunday, November 14, 2010

The 400 Blows (Les 400 Coups) (1959) Review

The 400 Blows (Les 400 Coups)
Director: François Truffaut
Year: 1959
Country: France
What is certainly one of the best French films of all times (and the best I have seen up to today), and what may fit perfectly within the 30 best movies in film history, The 400 Blows is a time less French classic that became a landmark in French New Wave. The film is a semiautobiographical tale of director and writer François Truffaut, who was a rebelious teenager at his time. It was his feature film debut, as he had been a critic years before and had made two short films, but this was his big breakthrough.

The film tells the story of Antoine Doinel, a rebelious middle class early teenager in 1950s France. Antoine lives a unhappy life, in a loveless home, a troubling school and a growing crime career. At first, his crimes were small and insgnificant like sneaking into movies, stealing few small things and skipping school, but they dangerously started to escalate to the point he had to be sent to reform school. But Antoine wasn't really a bad kid, he was only impulsed by his un-loving mother (who is having an affair), his cruel teacher and his best friend. Probably, the one who had the bigger responsibilitie was his mother, because she didn't only not give him affection, but after he saw her with another man his personalitie started to change. So Antoine is caght in a cruel world that impulsed him into becoming the criminal he would later be, but at the end it wasn't fully his fault.

The film is excellent in many aspects. First of all, the story (which I explained in the last paragraph) is compelling, thought provoking, inspiring, heart warming, and loveable. The writing in this film is wonderful, excellent enough to garner a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars. It is the story of an unloved child in a very troubled situation. It may sound simple, but by the way it is executed and carried on by Truffaut is excellent. And the fact that the film is largely based on Truffaut's own experiences as a trouble teenager makes it even more special. The character of Antoine Doinel is one of the most interesting characters under the age of 18. He is a troublemaker, a criminal in fact, but at the same time he is likeable and many in the audience will be able to connect with him. There are other interesting characters, like his friend, his parents and his teacher, but none are as great as Antoine. The dialogues in this film can be funny and touching at the same time, and th situations make the audience feel empathy for the character as well as being able to relate. And it has a very beautiful message about children's need for love and comprehension. Overall, a screenplay full of excellent material.

The direction of this film is also excellent. Truffaut's feature debut was a massive success, giving him his name. The film is beautifully shot, taking the screenplay's themes and translating it into the screen, capturing the emotions of his characters and recreating 50s France in a wonderful manner. Truffaut's talent and skills are shown here, and they result in what is without a doubt a wonderful work of art.

The acting is also very well done. Jean-Pierre Leaud, a relative unknown at the time, plays Doinel to perfection. His incarnation of the young delinquent is one of the greatest characters in the history of cinema. Also, Guy Decomble, the ruthless teacher who makes Antoine's life impossible, does an incredible job with the material he is given. And while his character is not as great as Leaud's, his impersonation is certainly worthy of eternal rememberance. Claire Maurier, who plays Antoine's mother, also gives an excellent performance, as well as Albert Remy as his father. A great film full of unforgettable performances.

The 400 Blows is definitely one of my personal favorites, and probably the best French film I've seen (note, I have yet to see La Regle de Jeu or La Grand Ilusion). The film's touching story is wonderfully executed by its cast and crew, making this one of the best films of all times.
My recommendation: Very high, for everyone
My score: A perfect 100


  1. This sounds great!

    I've decided to watch as many French New Wave films as possible at the moment and this one will definitely be on the list.

    If you like these kind of French films then I can recommend Jean Pierre Melville's films, as well as Breathless and Elevator To The Gallows...

    Really good review!

  2. Thnxs Jack. I can really recommend it, and thank you for the ones you suggested :)

  3. Great review. I haven't seen too many French films, but this looks like a great one.

  4. It is a great one, I highly recommend it. Thnxs Sparky

  5. It's been a while since anyone commented, I feel awkward writing this butI really love this film and your review! So thank you so much :D