The Essential Movie Library #71: The 400 Blows (1959) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #71: The 400 Blows (1959)

Francois Truffaut's revelatory film creates the perfect union of a personal statement and the French Nouvelle Vague’s conceptual considerations

Francois Truffaut was saved by the movies, and with this debut he came to return the favor. Unknowing of his father and passed off to other family members by his mother, growing up an unruly kid on the streets of a Paris that seemed a wonderland, never more so than at the cinema, Truffaut became a film critic as passionate as he was exacting. The 400 Blows seethes with all this but something else: This is where Truffaut only really learned just how deeply vested in cinema he could be, and you can feel how, for him as well as his young hero, there’s no going back. 

John Ford had John Wayne, Howard Hawks had Humphrey Bogart, Alfred Hitchcock had James Stewart (when he didn’t have Cary Grant), but while all these stars may have been manifestations of some part of the filmmakers’ self-image, none (including Orson Welles for Orson Welles) was as autobiographical an embodiment as Jean-Pierre Léaud was for Truffaut. Fourteen here and, even as a boy, bearing a striking resemblance to his director, Léaud would work with Truffaut up through the actor’s mid-30s a total of five times—with many more to come if the filmmaker hadn’t died at the shockingly unjust age of 52—on each occasion playing the same character and resembling Truffaut to varying and maybe even uncomfortable degrees. If not as audacious and exuberant (or loopy and free-spirited) as 1961’s Jules and Jim (Essential Movie Library #11), this remained Truffaut’s most formal accomplishment, a revelation in its time and enduring in ours, the most perfect union of a personal statement and the French Nouvelle Vague’s conceptual considerations. 

Read them all:

The Essential Movie Library #70: Blue Velvet
The Essential Movie Library #69: Dr. Strangelove
The Essential Movie Library #68: The Bicycle Thieves
The Essential Movie Library #67: Pulp Fiction
The Essential Movie Library #66: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
The Essential Movie Library #65: Caché
The Essential Movie Library #64: A Hard Day's Night
The Essential Movie Library #63: The Searchers
The Essential Movie Library #62: The Conformist
The Essential Movie Library #61: Bonnie & Clyde
The Essential Movie Library #60: Sweet Smell of Success
The Essential Movie Library #59: Melancholia
The Essential Movie Library #58: La Dolce Vita
The Essential Movie Library #57: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
The Essential Movie Library #56: Contempt
The Essential Movie Library #55: Sunset Boulevard
The Essential Movie Library #54: Metropolis
The Essential Movie Library #53: In A Lonely Place
The Essential Movie Library #52: Talk to Her
The Essential Movie LIbrary #51: To Be or Not To Be
The Essential Movie Library #50: The Battle of Algiers
The Essential Movie Library #49: Notorious
The Essential Movie Library #48: Wings of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #47: L'Avventura
The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X
The Essential Movie Library #45: In the Mood for Love
The Essential Movie Library #44: Touch of Evil
The Essential Movie Library #43: Once Upon A Time in the West
The Essential Movie Library #42: Belle de Jour
The Essential Movie Library #41: Apocalypse Now
The Essential Movie Library #40: Out of the Past
The Essential Movie Library #39: Branded to Kill
The Essential Movie Library #38: The General
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown 
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot 
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2
The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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