The 400 Blows

1959 | Drama/French New Wave | 99 minutes | In French with English subtitles

Info

Antoine Doinel is a troubled youngster growing up in Paris with a mother and stepfather who do not understand him. He skips school, steals, and repeatedly is punished for misbehaving. When he is caught  plagiarizing Balzac, he quits school. He steals a typewriter from his stepfather and hopes to sell it and finance his getaway. He is apprehended and spends the night in jail, sharing a cell with prostitutes and thieves. His mother has given up caring for Antoine. She realizes if she takes him back, he’ll run away. Antoine is placed in an observation center for troubled youths. He manages to escape and he heads to the sea, which he has never seen. He reaches the shoreline. It’s a transformative experience.  Directed by François Truffaut.

Cast
Jean-Pierre Léaud (Antoine Doinel) / Albert Rémy (Julien Doinel) / Claire Maurier (Gilberte Doinel)
Why Stream This Film?
Of all the French New Wave films of that time, this film is probably the most autobiographical. It’s as if Truffaut put his heart and soul in  portraying so vividly the wretched life of this very troubled youngster. That’s what makes The 400 Blows such an extraordinary film.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 100%
  • Metacritic Score: 92
Accolades
  • Cannes International Film Festival: Best Director (François Truffaut)
  • New York Film Critics’ Circle Awards: Best Film
  • Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Original Screenplay (François Truffaut and Marcel Moussy)

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François Truffaut’s THE 400 BLOWS is one of the most intensely touching stories ever made about a young adolescent. Inspired by Truffaut’s own early life, it shows a resourceful boy growing up in Paris and apparently dashing headlong into a life of crime. If the New Wave marks the dividing point between classic and modern cinema (and many think it does), then Truffaut is likely the most beloved of modern directors—the one whose films resonate with the deepest, richest love of moviemaking.
Roger Ebert

RogerEbert.com

The film is so fluid, so graceful, so apparently natural, that it seemed not to have any agenda at all. It doesn’t feel willful; it feels (as revolutions too rarely do) inevitable. It’s a lyrical and surprisingly tough-minded little picture about a 12-year-old troublemaker named Antoine Doinel as seen by a sympathetic and slightly more seasoned troublemaker named François Truffaut.
Terrence Rafferty

The New York Times

This film is a landmark in modern cinema, launching the French New Wave and turning Francois Truffaut from a critic into one of the world’s most distinguished filmmakers.
Jason Korsner

BBC Home

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