The 400 Blows

François Truffaut’s film debut came with many blows… 400 apparently. This French New Wave film is one that uses the archetypal filming techniques of the genre: on location and handheld. Some shots from far off, as if from a window, others from a car. It is like a current-decade independent film only it was made 41 years ago.[1]

Anyway, the plot itself doesn’t go anywhere really. A boy is constantly making trouble and making trouble and getting caught and getting caught until he’s sent to a place in the country for delinquent boys where–surprise!–he runs away.

There’s trouble at home, both between his parents and between his parents and him. His mom and dad don’t much like each other anymore and the boy is basically a mistake. They’re poor and living in Paris and that seems to be a good mixture for a boy to wreak havoc.

But he takes it too far when, after ditching school, uses the excuse that his mother is dead. That’s the final straw. That, and his stealing of a typewriter.

And I’m not sure what this movie is trying to do. I understand that it’s a classic film of boyhood, but it seems forced and overlong because there really isn’t any sort of an emphasis on a conflict or a moral journey. It seems like a repeat of the same episode of trouble, and the ending is proof of this. Instead of having any sort of resolution, we simply see the kid escape from the camp and start running. And running. And the he looks at the camera and it pauses. Credits roll. I really doubt there are any spoilers to warn you about. This movie just did not do anything for me. It did not feel like anything but a series of events that kind of go somewhere but never really do.

If you’re a cinematic completist and are going through a French New Wave kick, then see this movie. But the current average film goer seems to have nothing to gain from this film.


[1] Now, I understand that this is one of the reasons that this film is so regarded–the editing broke up the basic techniques of the time, but I really don’t think that this type of choppy, “beatnik,” pre-post-YouTube editing, is anything worth really praising… I mean, I’ve begun to think that the French New Wave–with Godard’s films and Truffaut’s films–is what created the MTV editing of shows like Cribs. The average shot on television now only lasts about three seconds. And I really think that this was the start of it. The start of our declining attention spans. Sure, it was revolutionary, but, retrospectively, it’s the protolith that’s caused we of the YouTube generation to not be able to pay attention to anything. (6118 corollary)

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