Saturday, October 31, 2009

THE 400 BLOWS (French) (1959)

The film of tomorrow appears to me as even more personal than an individual and
autobiographical novel, like a confession, or a diary. Francois

Truffaut’s debut feature film which earned him the prize for Best Director at Cannes Film Festival in 1959. The same year released Jean Luc Goddard’s ‘Breathless’ opened a new chapter of French New Wave in the world of cinema. Truffaut was young drifter then and shared two strong passions- Cinema and Books. He cultivated key ideas while meeting Andre Bazin, the editor of ‘Cahiers de Cinema’ (famous film criticism magazine) and wrote regular articles for magazine. He dedicated this breakthrough cinema to his mentor Andre Bazin.

Juvenile age is the beginning of an innocent rebellion experimenting with its own free will by challenging the conventional codes and prohibited practices prescribed by the society. We all passed through that age.

As the film opens we meet Antoine Doinel, a juvenile boy wrongly punished in the class by his teacher. He is known as rebellion boy of the class, prefers not to do his homework, write false excuse notes on behalf of his parents and famous for doing mischievous things. One day he bunks the class along with a friend and enjoys his freedom on Paris streets and suddenly he sees his own mother kissing a stranger. The next day he declares his mother dead when teacher asks him about his excuse for yesterday’s bunk. Within moments the truth is revealed with his parent’s entry in school and the boy gets a humiliating tight slap by his father inside the classroom surrounded by his classmates.

It looks like that something wrong is destined to happen with this boy every new day. There are so many other boys doing mischief and wrong things but its only poor Doinel who gets reprimand for being caught indulging wrong practice. It’s not while stealing the type writer from his father’s office but while returning it, he gets caught red handed and sends to prison.

Throughout the film I got mixed feelings for the boy portrayed with his disturbed juvenile period showing him cheating his parents, bunking school, smoking, stealing money from home, watching sensuous films, pissing in ladies toilet etc. But Doinel is nothing but a symbolic character of French New Wave Filmmaker Truffaut himself rebelling against conventional commercialized French cinema. Infect many incidents including stealing of typewriter by the boy were part of Truffaut’s own life. The world consists around him constantly pushing him to do what are acceptable according to controlling social and moral codes and he often breaks that taboos with his own free will to do what he thinks right. And this is what Truffaut had done to the world of French Cinema, broke the conventional and made an individual film in which he believed.

The film is made with the spirit of personal film making, instead of studio the whole film was shot at real Paris locations, giving it refined beauty and grace in chiseled black and white frames. The act of 15 year old Jean-Pierre Leaud as alter ego of Truffaut clearly gave strong emotional detailing. Truffaut’s use of mise en scene, montage and moving camera shots give it thumbprint of his filmmaking. Jean Constantin’s fine background score is another strong element highlighting the mood of the film.

Masterpiece of French Cinema.

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