The 400 Blows - Criterion #5

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The 400 Blows (1959) dir. François Truffaut | DP. Henri Decaë

There's a moment just after Antoine steals the typewriter when he and his friend (Rene) are stopped on the street by an unidentified man. It's back in the frame a little but still appears to be important. But then, just as fast as they are stopped, they run off and continue their journey through the streets of Paris where they keep dodging and weaving nearly running into all kinds of people along the way.

This guerilla filmmaking, ushered in by the French New Wave, is so spontaneities and magical. Did they know where they were going to shoot? I doubt it. Did they get location releases? Probably not. What about talent releases from all of these people on the street? Yeah right. And why did Truffaut decide to include this man who stops the boys to chat? Because he wanted to. He liked it. He hadn't seen it before. He was fearless.

I like imagining Truffaut and his skeleton crew running through the streets of Paris in a similar fashion to Antoine and Rene. They stop suddenly and say, "This corner is great." "Grab a shot here." "Let's get those pigeons!" "Oui oui." And thank goodness they did.  —ML


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“The script-girl told me, 'You know, the public will never accept this move because you are showing them a little loafer who steals money and hides it in the chimney.' But when the movie came out, I had the opposite impression; I felt the public was too severe with the parents and too indulgent with Antoine. Because I had wanted to show that the parents were totally at a loss with this unpredictable kid, who does everything in hiding. But the way it came out, the child was adorable.”