The 400 Blows
The 400 Blows (French: Les Quatre Cents Coups) is a 1959 French New Wave drama film, shot in DyaliScope and the debut by director François Truffaut; it stars Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, and Claire Maurier. One of the defining films of the French New Wave, it displays many of the characteristic traits of the movement. Written by Truffaut and Marcel Moussy, the film is about Antoine Doinel, a misunderstood adolescent in Paris who struggles with his parents and teachers due to his rebellious behavior. Filmed on location in Paris and Honfleur, it is the first in a series of five films in which Léaud plays the semi-autobiographical character.
|The 400 Blows|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||François Truffaut|
|Music by||Jean Constantin|
|Edited by||Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte|
Les Films du Carrosse
|Box office||$30.7 million|
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.
Antoine Doinel is a young boy growing up in Paris during the 1950s. Misunderstood by his parents for playing truant from school and stealing, and tormented in school for discipline problems by his teacher, (Antoine falsely explains his absence was due to his mother's death), Antoine frequently runs away from both places. He finally quits school after his teacher catches him plagiarizing Balzac. He steals a typewriter from his stepfather's workplace to finance his plans to leave home, but is apprehended while trying to return it.
The stepfather 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 seashore (as his mother wished). A psychologist at the center probes reasons for Antoine's unhappiness, which the youth reveals in a fragmented series of monologues.
While playing football with the other boys one day, Antoine escapes under a fence and runs away to the ocean, which he has always wanted to see. 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.
- Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine Doinel
- Albert Rémy as Julien Doinel, Antoine's stepfather
- Claire Maurier as Gilberte Doinel, Antoine's mother
- Guy Decomble as Sourpuss, School teacher
- Patrick Auffay as René Bigey, Antoine's best friend
- Georges Flamant as Monsieur Bigey, René's father
- Pierre Repp as an English teacher
- Daniel Couturier as Betrand Mauricet
- Luc Andrieux as Le professeur de gym
- Robert Beauvais as director of the school
- Yvonne Claudie as Mme Bigey
- Marius Laurey as L'inspecteur Cabanel
- Claude Mansard as the examining magistrate
- Jacques Monod as commissioner
- Henri Virlojeux as the night watchman
- Jeanne Moreau as a woman looking for her dog
- Jean-Claude Brialy as a man trying to pick up a woman
Truffaut also included a number of friends (fellow directors) in bit or background parts, including: himself and Philippe De Broca in the funfair scene; Jacques Demy as a policeman; Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Paul Belmondo as overheard voices (Belmondo's in the print works scene).
The English title is a literal translation of the French but misses its meaning, as the French title refers to the idiom "faire les quatre cents coups", which means "to raise hell". On the first prints in the United States, subtitler and dubber Noelle Gillmor gave the film the title Wild Oats, but the distributor did not like that and reverted it to The 400 Blows. Before seeing it, some people thought the film covered the topic of corporal punishment.
The semi-autobiographical film reflects events of Truffaut's and his friends' lives. In style, it expresses Truffaut's personal history of French film, with references to other works—most notably a scene borrowed wholesale from Jean Vigo's Zéro de conduite. Truffaut dedicated the film to the man who became his spiritual father, André Bazin, who died just as the film was about to be shot.
Besides being a character study, the film is an exposé of the injustices of the treatment of juvenile offenders in France at the time.
- Avenue Frochot, Paris 9th, Paris, France
- Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Paris 7th, Paris, France
- Honfleur, Calvados, France
- Montmartre, Paris 18th, Paris, France
- Palais de Chaillot, Trocadéro, Paris 16th, Paris, France
- Pigalle, Paris 9th, Paris, France
- Rue Fontaine, Paris, France
- Sacré Cœur, Paris 18th, Paris, France
The film opened the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and was widely acclaimed, winning numerous awards, including the Best Director Award at Cannes, the Critics Award of the 1959 New York Film Critics' Circle and the Best European Film Award at 1960's Bodil Awards. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 32nd Academy Awards. The film holds a 100% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 54 reviews.
Truffaut made four other films with Léaud depicting Antoine at later stages of his life. Antoine and Colette (which was Truffaut's contribution to the 1962 anthology Love at Twenty), Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board, and Love on the Run.
Filmmakers Akira Kurosawa, Luis Buñuel, Satyajit Ray, Jean Cocteau, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Richard Lester, P C Sreeram, Norman Jewison and Nicolas Cage have cited The 400 Blows as one of their favorite movies. Kurosawa called it "one of the most beautiful films that I have ever seen".
- List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator website
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- "The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
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- Bergan, Ronald, ed. (2008). François Truffaut: Interviews. Oxford: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1934110133.
- Holmes, Diana; Ingram, Robert, eds. (1998). François Truffaut (French Film Directors). Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0719045530.
- Insdorf, Annette (1995). François Truffaut. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521478083.