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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 10%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 5%
Total Crap: 5%

1 review, 14 user ratings

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400 Blows, The
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by Slyder

"An undisputed classic"
5 stars

Wow, few films have been able to hit me in the face as hard as this one did. I can’t believe it; it’s simply unbelievable how beautiful this film is. Legendary Francois Truffaut burst out into the limelight with this masterpiece, The 400 Blows (the title being a sort of variant or “raising hell”). It is such an impressive film hat it left me staring at the screen over a while after it ended. It’s such an outstanding character story that words leave me as I try to describe my feelings for this movie; it’s an experience you should see for yourself.

12-year-old Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is not a happy kid. He hates going to school, he hates his satanic teacher (Guy Decomble), he despises his mother (Claire Maurier) for cheating on her husband and stepfather (Albert Remy), and he also despises his very own stepfather as well for being a coward and not facing out against his wife’s disloyalty. But most of all, Antoine hates his parents for not being there when he needs them most, since they’re usually away and are busy with other things rather than attending to him. Frequently beat up and misunderstood, Antoine descends into a life of crime along with his friend Rene (Patrick Auffray), going from stealing a bottle of milk to stealing a typewriter from his stepfather’s work. It is the latter in which he gets busted and is sent by his own parents to a juvenile detention facility, where a psychiatrist reveals the roots of his unhappiness. Convinced that nobody will help him and much less understand his own feelings and desires, Antoine decides to take matters to his own hands and find a way to escape his hell and obtain his own righteousness in life, no matter what anyone else thinks of him.

Where to start? The cinematography, with its long shots of post-war Paris is evocative as well as haunting. The music is equally as such, and it will stay in your mind forever. This film was originally intended to be a 20-minute short film, but Truffaut’s own autobiographical experiences immersed him more and more creating a character that is outcast from the world that surrounds him. I don’t think there is a single experience that Antoine goes through that we haven’t lived in our own lives. It’s crafted and drawn from real life, examining the misunderstandings of a child that’s beginning to grow older, from child to adolescent, and from adolescent to adult. The hardships of an adolescent that is trying to change but is constantly condemned in a static world.

Truffaut’s message is delivered very clearly, and the final freeze-frame sequence is the work of a master. Any other Western filmmaker would’ve sugarcoated the final sequence into something that the boy wanted to do (in this case, join the Navy); instead, the image of Antoine’s face is plastered in the midst of the sea and the horizon, forever compelling us to reflect about his future and our present. There’s no other way to put it, this is powerful stuff, and its so powerful and so real that it makes films like Rebel Without a Cause look tame and pretentious by comparison.

This film is also important since it managed to launch a cinematic movement called the French New Wave, which spawned several low-budget, high quality films from the likes of Jean-Luc Goddard and Jean Renoir, and also introduced Alain Resnais into a wider audience. The New Wave movement was headed by Truffaut himself and there’s a reason for it: he was a damn good filmmaker and a proven film critic, as well as one of the first auteur filmmakers (he is the one that developed the theory); and this film, as well as his later work would prove it.

The cast is faultless; Jean Pierre Leaud is perfect as Antoine and is one of the finest performances by a young actor I’ve seen. It’s his character that drives the movie, and he never puts a foot wrong. Other broad standouts are Guy Decomble, Claire Maurier and Albert Remy, as Antoine’s primal nightmares: his parents and his teacher. The rest of the cast is also great.

In the end, this film is such an awesome piece of work. One of the most important and most inspiring films ever made, The 400 Blows is deserving of a view from everyone at least once in your life, so you can look back how it was for us as adolescents the tribulations and adversities of growing up with ideas different from the masses. And should I dare to say it, only an auteur filmmaker would’ve done this. 5-5

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originally posted: 02/24/04 08:03:05
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User Comments

10/21/10 millersxing a quagmire of youthful indiscretions 4 stars
7/12/09 Jared Kreiner shocking and depressing- but my favorite movie of all time 5 stars
1/28/08 proper amateur film critic Unsurpassed as a distillation of The NewWave's most exuberant creative instincts 5 stars
9/03/07 Keith S. Absolutely, shockingly perfect movie. 5 stars
6/07/07 fools♫gold A 1959 film up there with "Floating Weeds"; beats "Hiroshima, mon amour" into the white. 5 stars
1/03/05 Najdak The creators of the movie were inspired from above 5 stars
10/11/04 QDOG sentimental and maudlin - designed to appeal to agnst filled neurotics 2 stars
4/17/04 Morally Sound Truffaut's best movie. Brilliant! 5 stars
3/07/03 Charles Tatum Incredible 5 stars
11/01/02 Monster W. Kung A little too long and a bit overrated. Worth watching, but no immortal masterpiece. 4 stars
11/20/01 Sean KC A little depressing 5 stars
11/20/00 Kevin Palmiotto One of the best films of all time 5 stars
10/11/99 Weird Andy Blows. Highly overrated 1 stars
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  02-Jul-1959 (PG)

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