108 of 122 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2004
I've spent decades avoiding THE 400 BLOWS, afraid it was either dark and brooding, or a documentation of child abuse (physical and/or emotional), or an angry and vindictive assault on the authors' of Francois Truffaut's traumatic childhood.
I shouldn't have worried. THE 400 BLOWS is a gentle and compassionate movie. It isn't overwhelmed by its anger, although a few characters, particularly the coming-of-age hero's mother and his school teacher, aren't terribly sympathetic. Being new to THE 400 BLOWS, I found the commentary by Premiere magazine film critic Glen Kenny especially helpful in understanding French New Wave cinema in general and Truffaut in particular. By the way, according to Kenny "400 blows" refers to a French colloquialism similar to the American "paint the town red." It means to give oneself over to every type of excess, and raise a little heck in the process.
55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2000
The most heart-felt movie I've ever seen is a powerful mix of sharp-eye, hardhitting autobiographical remembrance of a nearly bruised childhood and a celebration of the wide-open, spontaneous and lyrical qualities of cinema to capture pointed truths of family, school and street lives as seen through the curiously haunted eyes of one Antoine Doinel, a modern-day Dickensian hero in a decidedly unglamours Paris, searching, often wrongheadly, for love and acceptance while, almost against himself, challenging the authorial rules imposed on children growing up in conformist post-WWII France. The film's tone is one of anguished bittersweetness and quiet defiance, counterpointed by bursts of joyful freedom and naughty prank playings as shared by many in their pre-adolescenthood. Doniel's friendship with the well-off but neglected Rene is also among the most moving portraits of childhood friendship ever. An unforgettable portrait, a cutting social study, a New Wave classic and Truffaut's best, but most importantly a timeless and univsersal "true" story. And yes, the last freeze, when it comes, is a stunner. Gosh, I just love it! (P.S., this relatively small and quiet masterpiece also happens to be the all-time favorite film of John Woo, imagine!)
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
However, if you are a fan of this entire film series by Truffaut, then you should spring for the Adventures of Antoine Doinel boxed set. It comes with all the extras found on this disc, plus a bonus disc which features excerpts from a 1961 documentary on Truffaut, which touches on this film, and a promotional art gallery for this film. Neither of these bonus features are found on this disc, nor is the bonus short film, Antoine and Colette, which is on the 400 Blows' disc in the boxed set. Great if you only want this movie, but I'd pay the extra dough as it's well worth it to have the entire Criterion boxed set, which is loaded with extras covering all the other films.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
In 1959, Francois Truffaut released a semibiographical film about his life with "the 4oo blows" (Les quatre cents coups). A film highly regarded as a definitive film that showcases French New Wave (a term to describe a group of French filmmakers in the 1950's-1960's that were inspired by classic Hollywood cinema and Italian Neorealism).
The film won several awards which include "Best Director Award" at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and "Best Original Screenplay" at the 32nd Annual Academy Awards. Needless to say, the film made Francois Truffaut and young actor Jean-Pierre Léaud Internationally known and definitely gave movie fans a taste of the French New Wave film.
"the 400 blows" is the first of five films spanning around 20 years based on the character of Antoine Doinel (played by Jean-Pierre Léaud). Each film showcases the character's life as a teenager through his 30's but for "the 400 blows", the film focuses on the life of a troubled teenager.
Although not based 100% on Director Francois Truffaut's real life, a large part of the film was based on his troubled family life and in order for him to capture that life he had, he picked the right person with Jean-Pierre Leaud, an unknown actor (who was just as an antisocial loner) who was 13 and a half years old but had that rebellious nature that Truffaut found. A boy who would not have to learn a script but to use his his own words. This added to the realism of the film and what made this film so fantastic and engrossing just to watch.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"the 400 blows" is presented in 1080p High Definition with an aspect ratio of 2:35:1. Black bars and the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format and the transfer is much different from the previous DVD release from Criterion years go as this was a high-definition digital transfer cared on a Spirit Datacine form a 35mm composite fine-gain master positive.
As with most Criterion Blu-ray releases, the company also had thousands of instances of dirt, debris and scratches removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System. The picture quality, although in black and white, looks incredible for a film released back in 1959. Black are nice and deep but you can see a lot more detail in the surroundings.
Suffice to say, THE CRITERION COLLECTION releases films with how the director intended the film to be. There is no DNR (digital noise reduction) and no softness and the film keeps the grain and retains its film-like quality. The film just looks beautiful on Blu-ray!
As for audio, the soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack and audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss and crackle. The audio has an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. My Onkyo receiver received a multichannel signal (via bitstream) but overall, I did not select a monaural setting when watching the film but I found the dialog to be clear and understandable. Music by Jean Constantin was also also clear.
Subtitles are featured in English.
"the 400 blows" comes with the following special features:
* Audio commentary by cinema professor Brian Stonehill - Brian Stonehill's audio commentary is very informative. This commentary was featured on the original Criterion DVD release and goes into depth about the themes of the film and overall, a solid commentary in which Stonehill also has included interviews with people involved with the film.
* Audio commentary by Francois Truffaut's lifelong friend Robert Lachenay - Robert Lachenay is Antoine's Rene. When they were younger, Truffaut's parents thought he was the bad influence and vice versa. But these two remained friends for a long time and with Lachenay working as an assistant to the film, we learn about the comparisons of Antoine Doinel and Truffaut. Similarities and differences of what really happened in the life of Director Francois Truffaut.
* Audition footage of Jean-Pierre Leaud, Patrick Auffay and Richard Kanayan - (6:24) A short segment featuring rare 16mm screen tests the auditions for the main talents auditioning for the role of Antoine Doinel, Rene and one of the Les Enfants, Richard Kanayan (who appeared in Truffaut's "Shoot the Piano Player" in 1960).
* Cannes 1959 - (5:51) A short newsreel frim Francois Chalais and JacquesPlanche's "Reflets de Cannes 1959' of Jean-Pierre Léaud as he goes to Cannes and is interviewed by press and the ovation the film received by the audience.
* Cineaste de notre temps - (22:26) This featurette is an excerpt from "Francois Truffaut ou l'espirit critique" episode from "Cineaste de Notre temps" which was shown in France back in December 2, 1965. Truffaut discusses his childhood, learning about his passion of watching films, his writing of Cahiers du cinema and the character of Antoine Doinel. The segment also features interviews with Jean-Pierre Léaud (Antoine), Albert Remy (father) and Claude de Givray (a friend of Truffaut who knew him when he was younger).
* Cinepanorama - (6:52)) An excerpt from the TV show "Cinepanorama" from February 20, 1960. The host France Roche interviews Director Francois Truffaut who was awarded for "Best Foreign Film" by the New York Film Critics Circle for "The 400 Blows". Director Truffaut talks about how the films reception Internationally and about the film.
* Theatrical Trailer - (3:47) The original theatrical trailer for "the 400 blows"".
* An essay book from film scholar Annette Insdorf - A quad-fold booklet titled "Close to Home" with production credits on one side and a two page essay by Columbia University, Professor and Director of Undergraduate Film Studies, Annette Insdorf discussing the similarities of Antoine Dionel and Francois Truffaut. But also differences and the importance of some shots.
"the 400 blows" is one of those films that surprised me from beginning to end. It's not that I haven't seen classic films that seem realistic but I found the film quite enjoyable in the fact that the film really goes indepth in the life of a Parisian youth who does bad things but that the connection between bad/or lack of thereof, parenting can be to blame.
Jean-Pierre Léaud is simply fantastic as Antoine Doinel and that is because Director Francois Truffaut allows him to be himself. As Jean-Pierre Léaud has commented himself, he is very much like Antoine in some respects and he eventually puts his trust in Truffaut to capture his emotion and his focal point through the camera. If anything, to make this character come out alive and in that sense, Truffaut succeeds and Léaud is magnificent.
Claire Maurier (who plays Antoine's mother Gilberte Doinel) is surprising in her role as a cold mother. She's one of those mothers who has her life hampered with having a child but tries to live her free life as if she didn't have a child. There is a strong disconnection between mother and son but how quickly she tries to change when her son catches her with another man. Claire Maurier does a fine job with her role. As with Albert Remy as Julien Doinel. The busy at work father who has more leeway towards Antoine but is not quick to be cold to his son like his mother. It's just when the trust is broken between father and son, is when you see Julien having to do things that he doesn't want to do and in essence becomes more like his wife.
There is a significant reveal at the end of the film of why Antoine does the things that he does but what the film does quite well at is showing how derelict parents can affect a child's behavior. Letting a child to do what he wants and there are no responsibilities but taking out the garbage. There is no love in the family and thus, it has a cause and effect towards Antoine.
Truffaut is simply a legendary director for helping catapult the French New Wave. With its similarities to Western classic films and Italian Neorealism in terms of really depicting the life of the poor in France, Truffaut gives us a glimpse of what his life was like. How he watched films when he ditched from school and just his overall experiences and troubles he had endured. When he's lying, he is treated badly at home and at school. When he's telling the truth, there is no difference. And for any parent, this is a true injustice for a child who needs that motivation that they can prevail, that they are wanted and they can succeed. And unfortunately, that was not the case for Antoine at 14-years-old.
I give THE CRITERION COLLECTION another applause for their treatment of "the 400 blows". Similar to a film like "THE SEVEN SAMURAI", although once released, the company went back and gave it a new, restored High-Definition digital transfer with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack.
Another awesome release on Blu-ray from THE CRITERION COLLECTION and for those who have never had a taste of French New Wave films, "the 400 blows" is definitely a great film to start out with.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2002
In Francois Truffaut's debut, award winning film, he paints visually the pain and joy of childhood, through a semi-autobiographical account of a 13 year old boy living in France. Antoine, lives with his mother and father in an apartment, on minimum finance. He gets into trouble at school, time after time, and at home his parents punish him, but at heart, he is a good kid. He decides to run away, but his parents find him, and they begin to treat him nicer. But when he gets suspended from school, he runs away for good. He begins stealing, and he gets caught. After he stays at a special home for juvenile delinquents, he escapes and his spirit prevails. This story is very moving, and entertaining. You get pulled into the young boy's life, and can relate with him. After you see how he keeps hope and prevails, it creates a warm feeling, and inspires you. The direction is perfect, and the director won the Best Director at Cannes Film Festival. I highly recommend those who wish to watch a fun, entertaining tale of hope and faith in the face of seemingly endless problems. 5 stars.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
An idiomatic translation of the French title of this movie, Les quatre cents coup, would be something like "Raising Hell," understood ironically. Twelve-year-old Antoine Doinel, played very winningly by Jean-Pierre Leaud, doesn't suffer "400 blows," although he does get mistreated quite a bit, and he doesn't mean to raise hell or to be a problem to his parents or society. He's just a boy being a boy. Unfortunately his mother (Claire Mauier), who is more like a wicked step-mother than the boy's biological mother (although she is that) would like to be rid of him so that she can spend more time pursuing her hobby, which is adultery. His cuckolded step-father (Albert Remy) is no help, although he seems to care more for the boy than his mother. And the institutions of society, as represented by his school, the Parisian police, and the social services people, seem intent on turning poor Antoine into a criminal. Truffaut ends the movie at a spot where it is still far from clear where Antoine is really headed, but we can guess that his spirit will be undaunted.
Some have called this, Francois Truffaut's first feature, realism, but if it's realism, so is Charles Dickens. This is an extended slice of life, a coming-of-ager stopped before the boy does become of age, and in this sense original. Truffaut paints everybody but the boy and his best friend in such a negative hue that we cannot help but identify with Antoine. This is not realism, but it doesn't matter because this is a splendid film, perhaps not as great as some have claimed, but very much worth watching because of Leaud's fine performance and Truffaut's original and charming presentation of Paris in the 1950s. In one sense Truffaut makes the City of Light a child's playground, and in another, it is a repressive, indifferent monolith. Antoine's transgressions--ditching school, telling lies, stealing from his grandmother--are trivial. But Truffaut wants to make sure we don't misunderstand so he has the boy get into trouble for (1) having a magazine passed to him in class, (2) unconsciously memorizing Balzac (he is accused of plagiarism by his fascist teacher) (3) returning a typewriter, which admittedly he had lifted, and (4) lighting a candle in honor of Balzac (which starts a fire).
My favorite scene is the one with the psychiatrist in which we hear her questions, but the camera stays on Antoine. His candid, eminently reasonable and entirely sane answers to her questions demonstrate that he is a completely normal, even admirable boy, and that it is society and its stupid adults that are off the mark.
The faces of the children at the Punch and Judy show are wonderful and the sequence of Antoine running and running so gracefully and seemingly with little effort symbolizes the longing that all children have to be free.
While I think this famous movie is perhaps a little over-rated, I can tell you that if you haven't seen it you are in danger of being labeled a cinematic illiterate.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2002
This masterpiece is Truffaut's first feature film, yes. The first New Wave film? Hold your horses there, sonny. You may want to define what you mean by "New Wave". As a couple of other brilliant reviewers below me have indicated, *The 400 Blows* does look rather like "refried Neo-Realism", and the movie is indeed classically constructed. Much more conventional than the exactly contemporaneous movies by Resnais and Godard, *Hiroshima, Mon Amour* and *Breathless*, respectively. Those movies REALLY "broke all the rules", linear narrative especially. But if you mean by "New Wave" an uncompromising, unflinching attempt to simply tell the truth, if you mean the true artist's concern to dispense with cliches and find his own voice, if you mean a feeling of liberation in a movie in which it seems anything can happen next, then *The 400 Blows* fits your bill. At any rate . . . what Americans will never get about this movie is how much it meant to France. Indeed, "Antoine Doniel", the adolescent hero, emerged as a sort of NATIONAL hero, a French Everyman who the French never tired of: Truffaut made 4 more films with Jean-Pierre Leaud in the role of Doniel. (Believe me, we Americans should feel no need to be as tolerant of Doniel's continuing adventures, which degenerate into sit-com buffonery.) The movie's at its best showing Doniel's adventurous truancy in and around a most unromantic Paris: the opening credits use a moving camera to show the Eiffel Tower trying to peep out above row upon row of ugly warehouses and tenements (Paris wouldn't look so ugly again until Godard's *Alphaville*). It's a tough town for a kid -- but no more tough than his home-life, with his alternately hateful and bribing and flirtatious mother, and his utterly undistinguished, stupid stepfather. It's no tougher than the school, either: Truffaut makes a good case for truancy being more affirmative than attending French public schools. (The teacher is a meanie straight out of Dickens.) The last sequences in which Doniel has been unceremoniously dumped into reform school might be accused of being heavy-handed, but Truffaut makes his points quickly with these scenes -- they by no means turn the film into grim melodrama. All in all, this director must be recognized as being one of the very few artists -- in ANY medium -- who gave a damn about children, and who intelligently told their stories. His *The Wild Child* in particular, made a decade later, seems almost perfect to me, even superior to this movie. [The DVD by Fox-Lorber is pretty good . . . for them. I'm sure the Criterion edition looks better, but it's now out of print, and I'm sure it's not SO MUCH better that it's worth forking out an extra Jackson (or two) for it. I do wish the picture on this Fox-Lorber edition was less dark. The features included a commentary track that probably isn't necessary, talent bios, and a whole slew of Truffaut trailers.]
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2009
I own Criterion's latest DVD release (from 2006) and now the Blu-ray edition of The 400 Blows. For anyone who would like to know about the differences between the two, other than the HD presentation, there are only a few. The extras are the identical, from the commentaries and archival footage to the essay in the booklet. So, in terms of content, the Blu-ray is edition is virtually the same as the latest DVD edition. (This is in contrast to, say, Criterion's Blu-ray of The Last Emperor, which jettisoned the "television version" present in the DVD released just months before.)
Yes, there is a noticeable difference in the quality of the video. The Blu-ray is less muddled and has sharper black-and-white contrasts. I also noticed some intermittent flicks of white in the DVD that have been corrected in the Blu-ray. (I actually feel spoiled by Criterion because I half-expect all of my classic films to be flawless now!) The Blu-ray also touts an uncompressed audio track. I can't say that the Blu-ray is a must-upgrade, but the difference in video quality is definitely there.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The movie announced the talent of Francois Truffaut and still makes a powerful impact 50 years later.
We follow the life of Antoine, a 13-year-old Parisian kid with a knack of getting himself into trouble. He's persecuted in turn by his stupid French literature teacher, his adoptive father and his cold, neglectful mother and winds up in a juvenile institution after stealing a typewriter from his father's office, failing to sell it and getting caught trying to return it.
Antoine is basically not a bad kid but each petty lie and immature stunt gets him deeper and deeper into trouble from a system that seems capable only of punishing and never of understanding him.
We learn that Antoine's mother never wanted him and sees him as a nuisance and a burden; that his adoptive father has no real investment in his success and that the authority figures he meets are interested only in processing him and never relate to him as a person.
This movie is full of exuberant cinemagraphic moments: the camera swoops up and down like a bird watching a clueless teacher taking his class for exercise and having the kids run off behind his back one by one. Antoine and his friend emerge from the Metro and a flock of pigeons explodes into the air. Antoine spends the night alone, surrounded by the cold, unfeeling statues of the Tuileries Gardens.
One notable aspect: every single adult in this movie is an idiot and most are also casually cruel.
The message of this humanistic film is that children need love to thrive. Without it, they are we are victims.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2005
A truly wonderful movie about a 12-year-old boy who feels unloved and unwanted by his parents, misunderstood at school - a cog with no wheel to fit into. In trouble all the time, more by circumstance than anything else, he runs away from home, gets caught "stealing" (actually returning) a typewriter, and is sent to reform school. His one desire is to see the ocean, and he escapes reform school and gets his wish at movie's end.
The camera work is excellent and seems to be everywhere - high overhead, close up, always on the move like the boy. There are many humorous scenes, especially in the school in Paris: Truffaut knows the minds of 12-year olds perfectly. There are some great ironic scenes, too: the "warden's" children being locked in a cage when the reform school boys have free use of the yard. Truffaut's first movie release, and a leading example of the French New Wave; a funny/sad viewing experience. A great movie.