A young boy with a troubled home life acts out for attention
and is driven to a life of petty crime that gets out of hand.
The 400 Blows (1959)
Directed by François Truffaut
Written by Marcel Moussey and François Truffaut
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy,
Guy Decomble, Patrick Auffay, Georges Flamant
Oscar Nominations - Best Original Screenplay
As Dr. Ian Malcolm once said, "You did it. You crazy son of a bitch, you did it." I had yet to be impressed by French cinema, particularly the French New Wave films. The ones I saw were pretentious, overly-praised, and for reasons I'll never understand, immune to criticism. But leave it to François Truffaut to give me a film that finally broke through my wall of animosity and made me understand, or at least begin to understand, French cinema. The 400 Blows is a great film that brilliantly shows the trials and tribulations of adolescence through the eyes of a neglected child.
Antoine (Léaud) is a decent kid, but his grades are slipping, his teacher abuses him, and his parents simply don't like him. They call him an idiot and let him know that he was nearly an abortion. I mean, holy shit. That kind of mental abuse can seriously fuck with a child's mind and make them feel unwanted, which is exactly what happens to Antoine. He starts skipping school, lying, and stealing stuff with his best friend Rene (Auffay). Pretty soon, he winds up in juvie, where his mother (Maurier) straight up tells him to not bother ever coming home. Overall, the film really shows the fragility of a child's psyche, while also condemning traditional punishment practices as nothing short of abuse.
Truffaut exploded onto the French cinema scene with The 400 Blows, a film that would come to not only define Truffaut's career but also represent the French New Wave movement alongside films like Breathless and Cleo from 5 to 7. What sets Truffaut apart from other similar filmmakers is he knew how to tell a good story. In the end, to me, that matters more than anything.