The 400 Blows

Movie Information

In Brief: François Truffaut's first feature The 400 Blows (1959) struck a blow of its own as the first of the New Wave films — movies that came as a reaction to what was perceived as the stodginess of classical French filmmaking (and filmmaking around the world for that matter). It was a movement that would change film as we knew it, and it really started with this largely autobiographical coming-of-age story. The New Wave would make better movies — some by Truffaut — but perhaps none so warmly accessible as this one.
Genre: Drama
Director: François Truffaut
Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, Guy Decomble
Rated: NR

When The 400 Blows last screened locally, I wrote: “Along with Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960), François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) is perhaps the cornerstone of French New Wave cinema. It’s more straightforward as filmmaking than Godard’s film, but its lack of much in the way of a dramatic narrative makes it even more experimental in other areas. The film — autobiographical in nature — simply follows a stretch of life of troubled schoolboy Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud). We track his life through his increasing difficulty with his school and his parents up to a point that can either be read as the moment of his rebirth/coming-of-age or as the point where he has run out of places to run. It may just be an expression of both since the latter realization might well mark a coming-of-age. Along the way, we also learn about his interest in going to the movies and his growing passion for the writer Honoré de Balzac. (Those familiar with Noah Baumbach’s 2005 film The Squid and the Whale will recognize a variant on the Balzac-plagiarism business that underscores Truffaut’s influence.)”

Full review here:

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present The 400 Blows Friday, Jan. 11 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332,

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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