The best child performance since Thunderpants

46. The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)

This is a strong poster, nice artwork, clean font. Definitely hangable.

I knew nothing about this film when I watched it. I didn’t read up on it, I didn’t realize that it was directed by Truffaut, it was simply high one of the top 50 that I hadn’t seen.

It’s kind of liberating in a sense to watch a movie with no background knowledge. You go in a blank slate ready to let the movie have it’s way with you. But there is risk involved given that a movie can be total shit, and if you know nothing going in, the chance of a shitty movie just stealing 90 minutes from you is heightened. But on the flip side you could discovering something amazing.

This film is amazing.

I think Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine Doinel gives the greatest child performance I have ever seen. He plays a 12 year-old in a broken home who spends as much time on the streets as with his parents. What’s so incredible about the performance is that it’s so self-assured, so vulnerable, yet totally natural. There is one scene that blew my mind, where he is being interviewed by a counsellor, and every look, gesture, and answer is so completely adult, as if he is man in a child’s body. It’s fascinating to watch.

Léaud has done about a billion films since, including 5 more as Antoine Doinel, but he’s never affected me the same way he did in this film.

On filmaffinity.com I gave the film a 9/10, simply because I don’t give 10’s to movies I have only watched once. I expect a rewatch will yield a 10.

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