To my knowledge, “The 400 Blows” is my first exposure to French cinema. Release in 1959 it was very well received at Cannes and has since continued to be recognized as one of the finest examples of French film making. This was a film that I went into with absolutely no knowledge of the plot, director, or the circumstances surrounding the movie. I watched the Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection which gave the film an absolutely stunning presentation and I highly recommend picking up this version of the film should you desire to see it. That said, lets delve into my thoughts on the movie!
Should this film be considered a classic? Yes, I believe it should. In doing a little bit of hunting for background information of the film, I found out that it is considered to be one of the best examples of French cinema of its era. It is easy to see why. The story is told completely from the perspective of a young boy and director François Truffaut did an outstanding job of capturing the thoughts and mannerisms of a child. The movie often feels light hearted and I couldn’t help but chuckle at some of the mischief that Antoine and many of his friends got into. The film also pulls at the heart strings as Antoine’s family life falls apart and he feels like he has no options left other than to leave home and turn to a life of theft on the streets.
Truffaut also has some absolutely wonderful camera work in the film. The long tracking shots of Antoine as he runs through Paris. The final long shot of Antoine as he runs down a road towards freedom. The opening scenes that takes us through the Paris of the late 1950s. The completely claustrophobic feel of Antoine’s home when compared to the free feeling of the wide open shots as he roams the streets of Paris. Even if you can’t get into the story of the movie, the incredible camera work alone makes this film worth a watch.
Would I own this film?Yes, I would. The film is truly a joy to watch. Antoine’s story could be the story of many children across the world and the way he is portrayed makes him likable without condoning his breaking of the law. This is one of those films that truly takes the viewer back to a different time. I couldn’t help but be transported back to the streets of Paris over fifty years ago. Everything about the film looks like it was snatched right off of a Paris street corner. If you want to see what Paris looked like fifty years ago, this film would be a great place to give you a glimpse of what it was like.