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400 Blows

The 400 Blows

4.7 11
Director: François Truffaut

Cast: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Robert Beauvais, Claire Maurier


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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Rachel Saltz
One of the films that put the French new wave on the international map, The 400 Blows also marked the transformation of François Truffaut from influential critic (at the Cahiers du Cinema) to influential director. The semiautobiographical movie about the adolescent Antoine Doinel, seemingly embarking on a life of crime, eschews sentimentality and easy extremes -- Antoine is no monster; his crimes are hardly outrageous -- to paint a sympathetic, if unblinking, portrait of the boy and his milieu (parents, school, pals, Paris). Jean-Pierre Leaud, in the first of his many portrayals of Truffaut's alter ego, is utterly believable as Antoine, the hard-luck kid with a taste for Balzac and cinema who is on the brink of adulthood in a slipshod world. Truffaut, one of the most beloved of all movie directors, started his career with a masterpiece: With its honesty, charm, humor, psychological acuity, and freewheeling visual language, The 400 Blows embodies all the virtues of the French New Wave.
Barnes & Noble - Matthew Johnson
Perhaps the lodestar of the French New Wave, François Truffaut's first film, The 400 Blows, is a visually compelling story of ill-fated youth in 1950s Paris that juxtaposes the free-spirited abandon of adolescence against the claustrophobic background of a dysfunctional family. Antoine Doinel, a stand-in for Truffaut in his own youth (Jean-Pierre Léaud), is the worst student in his rambunctious class, and his parents are constantly called upon to drag him from school for his various misadventures. All of the adults in his life, from his mother and father (Claire Maurier and Albert Rémy) to his teacher (Guy Decomble), shrink from taking responsibility for his upbringing. Doinel is soon out on the streets with his friend René (Patrick Auffray), sleeping anywhere but home, and eventually stealing a typewriter from his father's office. The consequences are swift and severe, and Doinel is soon a juvenile delinquent in the hands of the state. In addition to celebrating the gritty beauty of postwar Paris, Truffaut employs artistic and spiritual whimsy in the story, setting a tone that was to become familiar in the films of the director's New Wave contemporaries, such as Jean-Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer. Above all, though, The 400 Blows reverberates with the exuberance of children in a world made for grown-ups, crying out for their freedom in a world that suffocates dreams.
All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
Dedicating the film to his mentor André Bazin, 27-year-old critic-turned-director François Truffaut put his critical views into practice in his debut feature, The 400 Blows (1959). Unlike the French "Tradition of Quality" literary adaptations that he reviled, Truffaut looked to his own childhood for the source of Antoine Doinel's delinquent exploits in The 400 Blows, evoking Jean Vigo's Zero for Conduct (1933). Inspired by the stylistics of favorites like Orson Welles and Jean Renoir, Truffaut's moving camera and long takes, combined with location shooting and natural sound, lent Antoine's tribulations a fresh, fluid immediacy that caught critics' and audiences' attention. His innovative final freeze-frame suspending Antoine in an indeterminate future spawned numerous imitations. The Cannes Film Festival gave The 400 Blows the Best Director prize one year after banning Truffaut for his critical harshness; the New York Film Critics' Circle awarded it Best Foreign Film. Released the same year as Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour and Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, The 400 Blows' international success helped put Truffaut at the forefront of the nascent French New Wave. He would continue Antoine Doinel's story in three more features, Stolen Kisses (1968), Bed and Board (1970), Love on the Run (1979), and one short, Antoine and Colette (1962).

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Special Features

Two Audio Commentaries, one by cinema professor Brian Stonehill and the other by Director François Truffaut's lifelong friend Robert Lachenay; Rare audition footage of Jean-Pierre Léaud, Patrick Auffay, and Richard Kanayan; Newsreel footage from the film's showing at Cannes; Excerpt from a 1965 interview with Truffaut in which he discusses his youth, his critical writings, and the origins of the character Antoine Doinel; Excerpt from a 1960 interview with Truffaut about the global reception of The 400 Blows and his own critical view of the film; Trailer; Plus: An essay by film scholar Annette Insdorf

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jean-Pierre Léaud Antoine Doinel
Robert Beauvais School Director
Claire Maurier Mme. Doinel
Albert Remy M. Doinel
Guy Decomble The French Teacher
Patrick Auffay Rene Bigey
Claude Mansard Examining Magistrate
Serge Moati Boy
Marius Laurey Police Clerk
François Truffaut Man in Funfair
Folco Jacques Monod Commissioner
Pierre Repp The English Teacher
Jeanne Moreau Woman with Dog
Henri Virlojeux Night Watchman
Christian Brocard Man with Typewriter
Yvonne Claudie Mme Bigey
Jean-Claude Brialy Man in street
Luc Andrieux Gym Teacher
Richard Kanayan Abbou
Georges Flament M. Bigey
Renaud Fontanarosa Boy
Daniel Couturier Boy
Jean Douchet The lover
Jacques Demy Policeman

Technical Credits
François Truffaut Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Jean Constantin Score Composer
Philippe de Broca Asst. Director
Henri Decaë Cinematographer
Bernard Evein Art Director
Marcel Moussy Screenwriter
Marie-Josephe Yoyotte Editor

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The 400 Blows
1. No Recess [5:34]
2. Indicative, Conditional, Subjunctive [5:06]
3. Latchkey Kid [4:49]
4. Mother and Father [4:03]
5. Matinee [5:03]
6. Stolen Kiss [6:29]
7. Maximum Punishment [4:55]
8. Food and Shelter [5:53]
9. Pampered [4:32]
10. Smaller and Smaller [1:31]
11. For Balzac [3:38]
12. Momentary Happiness [1:46]
13. Suspended [7:06]
14. Up To No Good [4:13]
15. Childhood Magic [1:41]
16. Heist [5:53]
17. "We've Tried Everything" [4:08]
18. Behind Bars [7:06]
19. Negotiation [1:13]
20. Juvenile Detention [3:44]
21. Psychological Questioning [3:39]
22. Visitors [2:22]
23. Antoine Runs Away [5:17]
1. Color Bars
1. Out of the Studio [5:34]
2. Mind-Numbing Routine [5:06]
3. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity [4:49]
4. A Mixed Experience [4:03]
5. A Proustian Moment/Freedom [5:03]
6. Children's POV [6:29]
7. Betrayal/Handheld Camera [4:55]
8. Casting/Jeanne Moreau [5:53]
9. Lachenay's Letters/Phony Love [4:32]
10. "Pied Piper in Reverse" [1:31]
11. Honoré de Balzac [3:38]
12. Mirror Play/Mirth [1:46]
13. Creativity in Imitation [7:06]
14. Living with Lachenay [4:13]
15. Power of Spectacle [1:41]
16. Typewriter Theft [5:53]
17. A Personal Account [4:08]
18. Bazin/"Juvenile Identity Crisis" [7:06]
19. Deepest Marks [1:13]
20. Dubbed Dialogue/Dickensian Flavor [3:44]
21. Utter Believability [3:39]
22. First-Person Cinema [2:22]
23. Three-Shots [5:17]
1. Meeting Truffaut [5:34]
2. A Strong Personality/Friendship [5:06]
3. Mother/Unrealistic Toughness [4:49]
4. A Horrible Childhood [4:03]
5. The Leader/À la Hitchcock [5:03]
6. Three to Four Years [6:29]
7. Making Excuses [4:55]
8. Recognizable Faces [5:53]
9. An Important Question/MOS [4:32]
10. A Common Occurrence [1:31]
11. Men and Women [3:38]
12. Repeat Viewers [1:46]
13. Odd Jobs/Kicked Out [7:06]
14. Regarding Adults [4:13]
15. The Laughter Of Children [1:41]
16. Pawning/Like a Documentary [5:53]
17. Adults Are The Enemy/Debt [4:08]
18. Warehouse [7:06]
19. Lack of Acceptance [1:13]
20. A Sentimental Person [3:44]
21. TV Aesthetic [3:39]
22. True Love/Guilt [2:22]
23. Sequels [5:17]


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The 400 Blows 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gonzo84 More than 1 year ago
I just viewed 400 Blows and was taken back by the quality of work; Performances, Cinematography, Direction, and overall Story. This film isn't like any other film of its time. A few years before the release of the International Breakthrough Classic "La Dolce Vita," this film has as much style and taste as Fellini's milestone. In my mind, the visual setting of Paris is astounding and beautifully shot to the point where the Cinematography shots stand even against todays standards and gives a real true feeling of the real Paris, just like Fellini did with Rome in "La Dolce Vita," but I think that "400 Blows" gives a more intimate portrait of Paris. The story is one that touches the soul and anybody whose ever had a little bad luck growing up, with school or family or even friends will symphathize with the character. It seems that Leaud's character is a good boy who has a strew of bad luck. The story really makes you feel for the character. Overall, I was highly impressed and I now have to buy the DVD. This is definitely a landmark film and anybody who is a Film Buff will enjoy this feature as if it were a contemporary film.
Ring-fan More than 1 year ago
This was the first film from the late famed French director Francios Truffaut. It tells the story of a 14-year old boy who unwittingly becomes a delinquent from school and who runs away from home to escape from his constantly bickering parents. Jean-Pierre Leaud is the boy in question and he gives a remarkable and believable performance and even up to that infamous final shot, leaves you breathless as you feel for this poor boy and what he's struggling through with in life. Highly recommended for all film fans to have in their permanent collections.
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