173 - The 400 Blows (1959)

A boy who gets into trouble has but one dream.

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.

Alternative DVD Cover
Source: Wikipedia
It is well known that Fran├žois Truffaut drew upon his own experiences growing up in order to make this semi-autobiographical piece his first theatrical film. No matter on how much can be drawn from Truffaut's real life, it does go to show a lot about what it takes to become a director.

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 Fran├žois 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.


  1. I'm embarking on the same mad feat as yourself. And I must say seeing you've managed 245 heartens me. And now I'm looking forward to this one, although I'm working the other way so its gonna be a while until I reach it..


Post a Comment