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Laramie Movie Scope:
The 400 Blows

A boy seeks escape
from stifling circumstances

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1959; b/w, French, subtitles) The first feature-length film (the title from the French idiom "faire les quatre cents coups" translates as "to raise hell") from French New Wave director François Truffaut, winner of the Cannes Film Festival, was based on his youthful experiences.

Mischievous thirteen-year-old Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) lives with his mother (Claire Maurier) and his stepfather (Albert Rémy) in a cramped apartment. Antoine and his school chum René play hooky and entertain themselves in Paris with movies, pinball, and thrill rides. After seeing is mother on the street kissing a stranger, Antoine tells his teacher he missed class because his mother died.

Found out for lying, instead of returning home he spends the night in an old printing plant and wandering the streets, stealing milk for breakfast. He goes back to school where his mother finds him and tries to win him over with confidences of her own childhood - saying school teaches useless subjects such as algebra and science, but learning French is necessary for a successful career - pointing out how her husband's and her own lack of a completed formal education have hampered their prospects. As a means of encouragement she offers her son 1000 francs if he writes a worthy essay for class. Instead he plagiarizes Balzac in a piece he writes, "My Grandfather's Death," resulting in suspension.

After nearly setting fire to the apartment, Antoine receives both a threat from his stepfather to be sent to a military academy for disciplining and a frolicsome night out at the movies with his parents. Out of school with René, who intentionally gets suspended for insolence, the boys take money from René's alcoholic mother and then steal a typewriter from Antoine's stepfather's office. Unable to sell it, Antoine gets caught trying to return the typewriter. Confused and frustrated with their son, Antoine's parents turn him over to the police where he's charged with vagrancy and theft, placed in a cage with a man and three prostitutes, taken to juvenile court, and sent to an observation center for juvenile delinquents. There he tells a psychologist of his stealing from his grandmother who prevented his mother from having an abortion and helped raise him until he was eight.

Antoine escapes from his captors and runs to the shore alone.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2007 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)