Friday, February 5, 2016

The 400 Blows Review (Classic Write-Up)

One of the best parts about watching films like Breathless for the first time is getting the chance to dive deeper into an era of cinema dubbed by academics as the French New Wave. This span of time created numerous films that left a lasting impacting on the world of film as we know it, including popularizing and solidifying the concept of the auteur theory. This idea was given massive support from director Francois Truffaut, whose 1959 feature film, The 400 Blows, was not only one of the most famous movies of the French New Wave, but also the subject of the very review you're reading at this moment.

Interestingly, The 400 Blows 1959 release date not only puts it smack dab into the French New Wave, but also places the motion picture nines years after the start of one of the most influential comic strips of all-time, Peanuts. This might seem like an odd observation, but like Peanuts, The 400 Blows goes against the conventional depiction of childhood as a realm of serenity, instead showcasing it as an era in ones life full of turmoil and pain. To quote the star of another piece of media that would depict a more bleak vision of childhood decades later, "People who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children."

That level of strife and agony is very much at the forefront of the plot of The 400 Blows, which concerns itself with Paris resident Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud), whose academic and homelife trouble him immensely. Searching for an outlet to find some semblance of tranquility, he skips school one day, which only further drives a wedge between him and his parents. Things only spiral more and more out of control from there, with one of the final lines of dialogue in the feature concerning the fact that Antonines father " longer cares about [you]."

It's all a rather bleak affair, to be sure, but it's also an extremely engrossing one. Even taken out of its context in the artistically authoritative epoch known as the French New Wave, The 400 Blows more than works on its own merits. Much of this comes down to the screenplay, penned by Truffaut and Marcel Moussy, which manages to establish its story has a firm foot in reality early on in. It could be easy for the proceedings to go off the rails once the ever escalating actions of Antoines disobedience enter the picture, but they manage to make such events unite with the previously created pragmatic aesthetic of the motion picture. Instead of coming off as contrived ways to move the plot along, each new way Antoine gets into trouble instead carry a deeply tragic quality made all the more emotionally involving by the down-to-Earth nature of the entire film.

Recognition for high quality must also be given to the lead actor of the production, Jean-Pierre Leaud. Leaud excels with the more subtle moments of the script and also does an impressive job with handling the characters gradually increasingly pain powered demeanor. Considering how well Pierre and the entirety of The 400 Well fares excellently in its own right, it's no wonder that the decades have been kind to the picture and have seen it garner a greater historical context.

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