[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]The 400 Blows (1959) is the debut film of Francois Truffaut. It’s also one of the first major films of the French New Wave movement. The Movement started when a group of film critics who wrote for the iconic film journal, “Cahier Du Cinema”, realized the need of new way of filmmaking against the stereotypical period drama pieces being made by the then French Commercial film industry.
They rejected the Montage style for Mise-en-Scene, big budget unrealistic films for low-budget realistic film where characters were relatable. They believed that filmmaker should use the camera as a pen, much like an author uses a pen, i.e. a more personal approach to filmmaking.
Rather than merely telling a story, it should reflect the ideas & thoughts of the director. They called it “Camera-Stylo”. They experimented with narrative structure, their budget constraints made them innovate various techniques which still serves as inspiration for contemporary filmmakers.
Satyajit Ray in his book Our Film, Their Films wrote, “The reason why the New Wave happened in France and not elsewhere is the same as why La Regle du Jeu happened in France: it is the only country in the world where a departure from the norm in art is not immediately scoffed at”
Among the major figures of Cahier du Cinema was Francois Truffaut along with Jean Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and others. They were led by prominent film critic Andre Bazin. Truffaut dedicated his first film to Bazin, who died at the time the film was to be shot.
Truffaut’s 400 Blows was the first New Wave Film that was an international success and turned the attention of all film enthusiasts worldwide to this new kind of films. The Film was first showed at 12th Cannes International Film Festival and it credited the award for best Director. (See here The Official Listing)
Truffaut made a list of titles for the film to choose from. The French title “Les Quatre Cents Coups” translates to “to raise hell”. The English title “The 400 Blows” was earlier misinterpreted by some people as they thought it would be a film about Corporal Punishment.
The Film was semi-autobiography of Truffaut’s personal life which was in line with the philosophy of Camera-Stylo. Much like Antoine (the film’s protagonist), Truffaut also sneaked into movie theatres by the backdoor or sometimes gathered money by stealing, even committing minor robberies. Truffaut’s deep Friendship with Robert Lachenay was reflected in the friendship of Antoine & Rene. Robert Lachenay incidentally also worked as an Assistant on 400 Blows. Truffaut also used personal story of Jean-Pierre Leaud who played Antoine.
For the role of Antoine 60 boys were auditioned, Truffaut chose Jean-Pierre Leaud because Leaud had real life similarities with the character as he was also loner with rebellious thoughts about the society. The other boys who auditioned for Antoine were all used as students in the Classroom scenes.
The scene near the end where Antoine is questioned by the female Psychiatrist, was actually not scripted. That was the screen test for the audition of Leaud. Truffaut gave him some cues about what the answers should be like but the answers were completely Leaud’s own. Truffaut was so impressed by the performance he decided to use that screen test video in the film by replacing Truffaut’s voice with the dubbed voice of the female psychiatrist. The end result was phenomenal as Antoine’s acting was more organic and spontaneous.
Tag: Behind the scene 400 Blows