"The 400 Blows" Is Released

The 400 Blows (French: Les Quatre Cents Coups) is a 1959 French film directed by François Truffaut.

One of the defining films of the French New Wave, it displays many of the characteristic traits of the movement. The story revolves around Antoine Doinel, an ordinary adolescent in Paris, who is thought by his parents and teachers to be a trouble maker.

A semi-autobiographical film, reflecting events of Truffaut's and his friend's lives, its style amounts to Truffaut's personal history of French film — most notably a scene borrowed wholesale from Jean Vigo's Zéro de conduite. It is dedicated 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.

For his feature-film debut, critic-turned-director François Truffaut drew inspiration from his own troubled childhood. The 400 Blows stars Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine Doinel, Truffaut's preteen alter ego. Misunderstood at home by his parents and tormented in school by his insensitive teacher (Guy Decomble), Antoine frequently runs away from both places. The boy finally quits school after being accused of plagiarism by his teacher. He steals a typewriter from his father (Albert Remy) to finance his plans to leave home. The father angrily turns Antoine over to the police, who lock the boy up with hardened criminals. A psychiatrist at a delinquency center probes Antoine's unhappiness, which he reveals in a fragmented series of monologues. Originally intended as a 20-minute short, The 400 Blows was expanded into a feature when Truffaut decided to elaborate on his self-analysis. For the benefit of Truffaut's fellow film buffs, The 400 Blows is full of brief references to favorite directors, notably Truffaut's then-idol Jean Vigo. The film won the 1959 Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival, even though Truffaut had been declared persona non grata the year before for his inflammatory comments about the festival's commercialism. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide