Summer Movie List: “The 400 Blows” – dir. Francois Truffaut

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What is there to say about a film that has had essays written about it since it came out? Nothing I say will add anything more of value to a film that has endlessly been called one of the greatest films ever. At the same time, I find it really hard to find the right words to express my feelings on this film.

From a purely cinematic perspective, I can see why the film is lauded. The cinematography is quite virtuoso, with the camera fluidly following Antoine as he struggles in school and at home. The central performance by Jean-Pierre Leaud is strikingly simple: he highlights Antoine’s inner juvenile personality but also the turmoil that he is going through. The music is quite pleasing, adding to the story without overpowering it and aids in transitioning between scenes seamlessly.

But while I can appreciate it is a pure cinematic delight, what ultimately makes me love this movie a lot is how much Truffaut maximizes the emotions and feelings that Antoine experiences. His life feels like a fully lived-in childhood, full of painful fights and arguments and joyful memories going to the movies. Antoine’s life is tragic only because Antoine is so misunderstood by adults who are quick to judge him without taking a second look at what Antoine is saying. And it’s so easy to relate to Antoine’s troubles. It’s clear that he just wants to do right in some instances like the essay, but no one wants to take him seriously.

Overall, the film is beautiful to look at and never sentimentalized one bit of Antoine’s childhood problems.

Rating: A

2 Down, 98 to go! Next up, I’m going to watch Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver

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