The 400 Blows (1959)

I had expected something revolutionary from The 400 Blows: imaginative, exciting filmmaking from the film that began the New Wave movement. The cinematography itself didn’t wow me as I’d hoped, aside from a spectacular and extended series of tracking shots that conclude the film. But the story of young Antoine Doinel is certainly touching, particularly as a teacher who sees students who remind me of him pass through my classroom. The film is intensely sympathetic towards Doinel (a reflection of Truffaut’s own childhood). He’s mischievious, disobedient, but in an absent-minded way, without malice.

Doinel is troubled, but has nowhere to turn. In an early scene his mother tries to connect with him in a meaningful way. She talks of sharing secrets. But he already shares a secret with his mother, having spotted her with her lover, and is unable to confide in her as he should be able to.

Derided at school by his teacher, he expends his full efforts on an essay that is immediately decried as plagiarism, his hard work ridiculed. What he needs is forgiveness from these authority figures, but you can see their difficulty in trusting this boy who has tested their trust so many times.

Rating: 178/200

2 thoughts on “The 400 Blows (1959)

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