Antoine Doinel is a misunderstood child growing up in 1950's Paris. His parents barely have enough love for each other and his teacher appears to have a grudge against him. As a result, he regularly leaves school and home, often living a life of petty instead.
Finally, after finding inspiration from a well known French writer, he writes an essay that is far above his usual standard. He is accused of plagiarism by his teacher and leaves school - only to be punished by his father after trying to fund his attempt at freedom.
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The main message of the film is how cinema can be used to visualise your personal dreams, regardless of how significant they appear. Doinel's few moments of happiness are when he dreams of getting away from society - whether it be for a brief moment as the class escapes the gym teacher or for a foreseeably longer time as he runs away from home.
It also shows the influence in cinema on his life. While Cinema Paradiso showed a young boy growing up in the back room of the local theatre, The 400 Blows sees Doinel in a single trip to the theatre where his family are at peace with one another - clearly a huge influence in Truffaut's life.
Day For Night introduced me to the film-making of François Truffaut and I was instantly a fan. The 400 Blows is where his career began and while it may not quite match the personality of his later pieces it is a brilliant introduction.