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"The 400 Blows" (1959) | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #103 Gem Mint 10.0

Updated: May 11, 2021

“The 400 Blows“ (1959)

Director: François Truffaut

Writer: François Truffaut, Marcel Moussy

Starring: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Remy, Guy Decomble, Patrick Auffay

Rated: Not Rated

Runtime: 1h 39min

Genre: Crime, Drama

Country: France

Language: French | English

"A young boy, left without attention, delves into a life of petty crime."

You might like this if you like: French New Wave Cinema, French Films, Crime Stories, Dramas, Coming-of-Age stories, Classic Cinema, François Truffaut

"The 400 Blows" (1959)

Finally got a chance to sit down, turn the lights off, and give this film the proper attention it deserves. I've known about the film for years, but my good friend, Simon Balderas, gave me the little push to finally hit play. Thank you, Simon.

A touching look into the life of a young boy in the small streets of Paris. The setting is beautifully introduced to us in a classic montage of the city as we slowly find ourselves in a classroom and introduced to our leading boy; Antoine Doinel played by Jean-Pierre Léaud.

Albert Remy (left), Claire Maurier (middle), Jean-Pierre Leaud (right) in "The 400 Blows" (1959)

I was moved by the small moments this film made big. One of my favorite examples is when Antoine playing at the carnival/fair where he goes in the spinning saucer. As a guy who grew

up, and frankly still does, disliking MOST roller coasters, for some reason found the spinning saucer at my local fair quite fun. Now to be fair, mine was a lot more modernized than the one we saw in the film. That one looked arguably dangerous and could fly right out of the top at any second. I'm not sure I would've ridden that one haha. Anyways, just one of my favorite sequences in the film.

Patrick Auffay (left) & Jean-Pierre Leaud (right) in "The 400 Blows" (1959)

Going in the film, I didn't know anything plot wise and was really taken that the whole film was from a kid's point of view. A more adult story, but an honest kid's story it feels for me. Seeing his life weave in and out, it's so personal almost to a documentary like feel. As if this kid had a camera following him through the streets, schools and homes of Paris.

Captured at a time of beauty that I think is near impossible to get again, it really feels like an alien world. I'm sure, even to those who have been to Paris, the quality and just it's time period, gives it a whole other worldly feeling.

Jea-Pierre Leaud in "The 400 Blows" (1959)

It's got a fun crime and gangster quality to it, but not in a bad boy type of way.. more in a survival and way of life way. Its rawness in moments, visuals and dialogue are hauntingly real and memorable. Certainly one of my favorites of French New Wave era.

Yet even in its other worldliness, even though its reach is nearly 60 years apart from now, it stills feels close to home in a way that took me easily back to my younger years. Not that I was doing those exact things, but it perfectly captures the adolescent mind in a touching and nostalgic manner.

Written by Sam Gall on May 5, 2021

CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0

"Without ever being sentimental, the film draws a moving contrast between the purity, honesty and sheer courage of the boy and the corruption or obtuseness of the adults who control his life." - Dwight MacDonald, Esquire Magazine

"The cinematography by Henri Decaë is gorgeous and 400 Blows is great to watch just on a technical level." - Rachel Wagner,

"Truffaut brought a fresh and piercingly honest portrayal of troubled youth to the screen. In many ways, Antonie Doinel is not only the cinematic embodiment of Truffaut, but also the French New Wave as a whole." - Radheyan Simonpillai,

"Childhood's frustrations for Truffaut are never far from its lilting delights" - Fernando F. Croce, CinePassion

"Truffaut's ode to his childhood is an engrossing watch that is alluring in its simplicity and brilliant in its direction. It flows nicely at its own pace, never allowing melodrama to ruin its realistic and voyeuristic atmosphere." - Matthew Pejkovic, Matt's Movie Reviews

Official Trailer:

Behind the Scenes:

Available on various VOD platforms

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