Tuesday, June 30, 2015

339. Les quatre cents coups/The 400 Blows (1959)


Running Time: 99 minutes
Directed By: Francois Truffaut
Written By: Francois Truffaut
Main Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Albert Remy, Claire Maurier, Guy Decomble, Patrick Auffay
Click here to view the trailer

Note: NON-BOOK UPDATES: 

I Confess (1953 - Alfred Hitchcock) - Didn't really care for it, especially when comparing it to other Hitchcock. I can think of about twenty Hitchcock movies off the top of my head that are better than this. Still I'd call it about a 6 or 6.5/10, proving that Hitchcock's bad is any other movie's "pretty good". 

The Upside of Anger (2005 - Mike Binder) Call it 6 or so out of 10, as well. Not bad, but too cliche. The ending is pretty unpredictable though and all the females put out good performances, especially Joan Allen who is great. I can't stand Kevin Costner in anything though, for some reason.

Doubt (2008 - John Patrick Shanley) 7/10 - Best of the three. Love Philip Seymour Hoffman and I couldn't stop thinking, throughout this whole movie, what a talent we lost when he died. I've rarely, if ever, seen Meryl Streep better. While I wasn't thrilled with the idea of the film not having a conclusion, I guess the film keeps the audience in as much doubt as it keeps it's characters. 

Nothing bad all week!

Now then...

TRUFFAUT WEEK: THE CONCLUSION

Going to try and tackle Ben-Hur between today and tomorrow. My wife has, albeit reluctantly, agreed to go at it with me, so that makes it easier to find the time to watch it. However, today we're concluding my introduction to Truffaut, by watching probably the best of the lot - The 400 Blows.


Young Antoine Doinel (Leaud) is a pretty typical kid, I'd say. He goes to school, sets the table, takes out the trash, runs amok with his friend Rene and does all things that normal kids do. However, in Antoine's case, he also manages to get into his fair share of trouble and as the film starts, he's almost immediately being sent to the corner by his teacher, whom the students dub Sourpuss (Decomble). However, the trouble isn't anything too terrible: failing to complete homework assignments, talking in class, petty stuff. His mother (Maurier), however, gives him a pretty hard time, while his father (Remy) is more accepting and forgiving of young Doinel, joking with him and being less hard. While less hard, the father, along with the mother, constantly threaten to send Antoine to military school unless he shapes up. When he skips school one day, Antoine catches his mother making out with another man and when he gets caught lying about the reason for his school absence, he runs away, only to return soon after - living on the streets overnight, stealing milk and sleeping in mills. Later, he runs away a second time, staying with his best friend Rene (Auffay), sleeping in a spare bedroom to avoid Rene's parents. The next morning, after spending the night with Rene, the two are hard up for cash and Antoine suggests stealing a typewriter from his father's office and hocking it. However, when the two can't get rid of it, they decide to return it, only to be caught red handed.



I liked this well enough, but after watching it I couldn't help but wonder if all the praise this movie gets is from people convincing themselves that they NEED to like it to be accepted in the film watchers community. This is obviously an important film in the history of cinema, as it ushered in the famous French New Wave, a new way of thinking for a group of french filmmaker's, who were tired of the old and the traditional way of making movies. This "new wave" would explore new themes, ideas and new movie making techniques, such as how the camera was held and how shots were framed and captured (see the tracking shot at the end of The 400 Blows, with the camera following a running Antoine). The film is very easy to like, as it provides the general audience with an accessible plot, while providing the snooty audience with the things that I mentioned above. However, I don't think it's SO GOOD that it quite deserves all the praise that it does get. You have to realize that I'm not really a critic, I'm not a film student or an aspiring filmmaker. I'm just a Joe who grew up on movies, mainstream movies to be exact, so that when I watch something like this I'm taking a step out of my former comfort zone. THE BOOK has given me the opportunity, however, to step out of my comfort zone so many times, that now my comfort zone encompasses more than it used to. For example, I'm finally learning that old movies are usually better. Every Sunday night, I go through the TCM schedule for the next week and set up a DVR recording for anything that sounds good. I almost always at least LIKE the movies that I record, more often than not loving them. Therefore, I feel like THE BOOK has helped me to broaden my horizons and become acquainted with other decades, as well as other countries.


The only thing I'm trying to say, is that while it's good, I wouldn't go so far as to call it great. I think a lot of the praise is wannabe critics who just REALLY WANT to like it and simply the fact that it's an incredibly important film more so than it's an incredibly good film. However, the movie is very easy to like, with a plot and ideas that aren't hard for an average Joe to understand, so I'd certainly recommend it to even the most intermediate film watcher. I wonder, why wasn't Antoine's mother's infidelity explored more? He catches her kissing up on another man and hints that he can use it as leverage if he gets in trouble for skipping school, but then we never really hear about it again. His mother does come to see him in juvenile hall, toward the end of the film and she hints at a letter he wrote, which may have contained something about her affair, but it's only really mentioned in passing and never really brought up in further detail. The film is supposedly very autobiographical, so perhaps it was simply Truffaut way of saying, "and yes, I also caught my mother cheating on my stepdad". I feel like this is another one that, upon multiple viewings, I will only like more and more and more.

RATING: 7/10  Liked it well enough to add the other four Antoine movies to my Netflix queue, so I'll keep you posted of my thoughts on those. Proud to say I was a big fan of Jean-Pierre Leaud before The 400 Blows and even before Francois Truffaut. If I were to rank the Truffaut films, I'd say they got progressively worse with The 400 Blows being the best and The Last Metro being the worst, with the exception of Day for Night being better than Jules and Jim, at least in my opinion.

MOVIES WATCHED: 930
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 71

June 30, 2015  10:43am

2 comments:

  1. Firstly... 'Doubt' .. Powerful film. I'm still not sure what the 'Truth' was. I TINK we were nudged towards he did do the abusing, but we were so manipulated to find - superficialy- him the 'nicer' person.
    I guess that was the point of the film.. that abusers get way with it because they are, often, on the surface, convincing .. and we should be aware that happens.

    But 400 blows. Well, I've also done all 3 (or is it 4) in the series. Not as wild about it as you are, But I've always been less tolerant of wayward kids than most

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    1. I thought you had mentioned Doubt to me in the past Ray. I tended to lean toward his innocence, but, we'll never know. I did, however, keep flip flopping throughout the film, so kudos to the film for keeping me on my toes.

      There are a total of 5 in the Antoine series. I'm hoping they get better as they go along and as Antoine grows up. We all know how I feel about kids in film...

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