Tag Archives: Francois Truffaut

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.

Learning…it’s fundamental.

40. Jules et Jim (Francois Truffaut, 1962)

This is one of those films that think I would appreciate now with some context.

I watched this film pretty early on in my journey to 1000, when I was struggling to get through the top 100. I didn’t know a thing about Truffaut, and this might even have been the first new wave film I watched. I basically knew nothing about anything. So all the mobile camera work, and other cinematic techniques didn’t really connect with me. As a child of the 80’s, and later the 90’s, the innovations of the French new wave are kind of lost on me. I am used to jump cuts, and heavily stylized film-making, and when I see them I honestly don’t notice them. It just appears to me to be conventional film-making.

II am getting better at noticing though. As I learn more about cinema and its history, I realize that some things were incredibly revolutionary at the time they were done. Thus the camera work in “Jules et Jim” with some context is something I realize was pretty exceptional, rather than conventional. Similarly my appreciation for stuff like “Citizen Kane” or “Applause” is heightened by the fact that I understand the history of film-making better and realize that the things I see in 2008 didn’t always exist. They started somewhere, and people like Godard, Welles, Truffaut, and Mamoulian did a ton to change the way the films are made.

That being said, I didn’t really like the switch from happy-go-lucky youthful romance of the first half of the film to the dissatisfaction and despair of the films climax. It seemed to be pretty random and out of place to me. I didn’t understand why Jeanne Moreau‘s Catharine went from being this incredibly sexy free-spirited woman to being up-tight and cynical. Maybe I just don’t understand women…or marriage…or French people.

On filmaffinity.com I gave the film 7/10. The tone and narrative shift from joyous exuberance to overall cynicism didn’t resonate with me. In other words the first half was bitchin, the second half didn’t really do much for me. That being said if I can ever find the Criterion DVD for a decent price, I am so there.