LES quatre cents COUPS (the 400 blows)

Every last Wednesday of the month, we will show a Classic French Film

By François Truffaut
With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Guy Decomble, Albert Remy
France – Drama – 1959 – 124 mins
In French with English subtitles

Antoine Doinel is a young boy growing up in Paris during the early 1950s. Misunderstood at home by his parents and tormented in school by his insensitive teacher, Antoine frequently runs away from both places. The boy finally quits school after being caught plagiarizing Balzac by his teacher. He steals a typewriter from his stepfather’s work place to finance his plans to leave home, but is apprehended while trying to return it.

The stepfather angrily turns Antoine over to the police and Antoine spends the night in jail, sharing a cell with prostitutes and thieves. During an interview with the judge, Antoine’s mother confesses that her husband is not Antoine’s biological father. Antoine is placed in an observation center for troubled youths near the shore (as per his mother’s wishes). A psychologist at the center probes reasons for Antoine’s unhappiness, which the youth reveals in a fragmented series of monologues.

One day, while playing football with the other boys, Antoine escapes under a fence and runs away to the ocean, a place he has wanted to visit his entire life. He reaches the shoreline of the sea and runs into it. The film concludes with a freeze-frame of Antoine, and the camera optically zooms in on his face, looking into the camera.

The 400 Blows received numerous awards and nominations, including the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Director, the OCIC Award, and a Palme d’Or nomination in 1959. The film was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing in 1960. The 400 Blows had a total of 4,092,970 admissions in France, making it Truffaut’s most successful film in his home country. It is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time; in their 2012 poll of all-time classics, Sight & Sound ranked the film 39th.

 

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