As much as I love this film, I can understand the criticisms it tends to receive. For example, some have said it has a very linear storyline and it’s not incredibly complex. It’s very simple and straightforward. The adult characters are fairly one dimensional and as a result lack depth. The teacher is essentially a caricature. I guess all I’m saying is I can see the film’s flaws even if I still appreciate it. It’s also a bit romanticized at times, or at least it excessively romanticizes the city of Paris, perhaps beyond necessity. During the opening credits sequence and throughout the film, as well, one gets the sense that Truffaut is going, “Oh, look how beautiful Paris is!” Or maybe what some see as flaws others don’t. I don’t know. What are people’s thoughts? I’m not sure if these are flaws or not. I guess it depends on how one views the film. I guess what I’m saying is I can understand why some may have issues with these aspects of the film while at the same time one could argue they all add to the film. The other scene I can see being perceived as corny is when Antoine is lying in his mother’s bed while she’s explaining to him his father not having a diploma and how some school subjects are important while others aren’t. From a certain angle, it seems as though Truffaut’s using the music to romanticize a mother-son interaction that doesn’t need to be romanticized. I guess I’m saying I can see how some would love the technique while others would have issues with it. Perhaps on a last note, the romanticized reputation of the film itself tends to cloud people’s judgment of the film. Who knows?
Last time I rewatched it it was even better than I had remembered it being, I totally loved it. It’s a classic and a wonderful film.
For a long time I preferred Shoot the Piano Player, but now I would say of the two STPP is the more flawed. More tragic too, though.
I agree with Tannhowser; however, if I’m in the mood to watch Truffaut, I’m more likely to pull out one of the later Antoine Doinel films.
It’s not an incredibly complicated film but it’s deeply touching. Truffuat’s recreation of childhood memories has consistently stirred the childhood memories of moveigers with childhoods quite different than the one depicted here. That’s why the film is so well regarded, IMO. It’s deeply felt and well-communicated.
Then again, perhaps many of the things I explained up above that may seem like flaws are prevalent, since the film is meant to be from Doinel’s point of view, and this causes many dissatisfied viewers to misunderstand Truffaut’s motives.
What David said. It distills the essence of the memory of childhood; specifically, Truffaut’s. There are few better examples of thinly-veiled autobiographical cinema.
I think its a very good film and I like it but yes its overhyped.
It is very straightforward, but I don’t see that as a negative.
I also think there’s some major themes that haven’t been mentioned in this thread. The reasons behind the main character’s misbehavior. He has learned that he receives the same treatment whether or not he tells the truth, so he always just says what will avoid immediate punishment. His resulting behavior is interpreted by everyone surrounding him as a Christian-perspective moral flaw.
I didn’t think the teacher was a caricature. The teacher was just narrow minded and reactionary. That’s how a majority of teachers respond to abnormal behavior from children, except now, they’ve got entire bureaucracies in place to respond that way.
This is a very realistic critique on reactionary discipline.
Who can forget that boy running in the beach and turning to the camera.
While I think 400 Blows is a great film, it’s hard to feel why it was so revolutionary almost 50 years later. I wasn’t around then, so it’s difficult to feel the real impact it had on film, culture, society, etc. That said it’s still a wonderfully complex film. It plays straight but has a lot bubbling under the surface, akin to a Hemingway novel.
Yet, I find myself always preferring “Stolen Kisses” as my favorite Doinel film, and Truffaut film overall. I think it’s unfair to say Truffaut’s debut was his best. It’s undeniably great, but he grew as a filmmaker. Some of his latter material may have been iffy, but he had some great films post 400.
There’s just something about Stolen Kisses that draws me more than 400 Blows but it’s impossible to enjoy Kisses without Blows, they’re inextricable.
I’m so tempted to reply that you can enjoy Blows without Kisses, but I’ll refrain …
In any regard, The 400 Blows is still magical, 50-years on.
LOL @ Dionel
The New Wave is important because, as I understand, films could be made without the support of a studio for the first time. (Distribution is another matter, now we understand). Truffauts films matter because in a way the camera was able to escape the ball and chain it was under inside the studio system. You can literally see the camera wondering around. I heard that Truffaut starts Band of Outsiders with a sequence of the streets of paris to show that point.
As far as the 400 Blows is concearned. Look back and think why those shots matter in the context of the New Wave. Try to see it as if it was NEW and you will be blown away.
Not to mention that the story breaks my heart. The film is all about one moment. A moment of self awareness, when you realize you are not a child anymore, and life can be cruel, but also full of opportunities.
Doinel sees the see because he chooses to, thats the fist choice he makes for himself, leaving everything behind.
So far, no one has said it is overblown…
Do you think it’s overblown or were you just expecting someone to make that comment sooner or later?
I think the relevance of this story is timeless. It may be in black and white and it may take place years ago, but many kids don’t feel they fit in with their families or what is being shoved down their throats as they grow up.
In that sense, to make a movie that one can relate to through the ages, no, I don’t think it’s overhyped.
When Godard was at the height of his Maoist period, condemning everything Hollywood and Nouvelle Vague left and right, The 400 Blows was the only film he still bowed down to. It’s beyond reproach, and it instigated cinema’s only revolution.
I think it’s a great film and a classic. However, that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The two are not mutually exclusive.
I’m not sure about the “simple, linear plot” being a negative. For whatever reason, we’re all attracted to fancy-shmancy plot twists and clever non-linear story arcs. I for one think a simple plot is generally best.
In any case, The 400 Blows (like many) is a far too motivated film for me to find particularly endearing.
It doesn’t matter what people think of it now. It matters what affect it had on cinema history, which was quite a lot. Who cares if people watch it with overblown expectations? That is not the fault of the film or the filmmaker. Or even of critics or historians.
That is the fault of people who watch it.
Blame the audience….
For example, some have said it has a very linear storyline and it’s not incredibly complex. It’s very simple and straightforward. The adult characters are fairly one dimensional and as a result lack depth. The teacher is essentially a caricature.
All of these are just descriptions. None are inherently good or bad.
Another interesting thing about the film is, for such an allegedly straightforward film, we all have something different to say about it.
That is a good sign, Jirin.
I agree that having a linear storyline has no positive or negative implications but can’t we agree that complexity is better than, if not the basic definition of simplicity, then at least the more accurate opposite trait which is simple-mindedness?
I suppose a case can be made that one-dimensional characters can be used in multi-dimensional ways by a talented filmmaker but if the adult characters in this case are one-dimensional in the service of one-dimensionality that this is a bad, or less than great thing?
Aren’t caricatures usually less good than fully realized characters? Can you give me an example of where caricatures are used to enhance a film?
I am not arguing for or against this particular film. I realize this kind of questioning is sometimes considered to be derailment of a thread but I’m just trying to get a decent idea of where Malik’s coming from, not trying to start an argument.
Enjoy films for what they are, not from words of others.
Overhyped, underhyped, critically acclaimed are all NONSENSE in my opinion. And I blame the existence of “critics” like Ebert and co.
Nope. Don’t hear much discussion about it at all (edit: anymore), come to think of it.
I waited a long time to see it and had heard nothing but praise beforehand, so my expectations were high. My first viewing of it was a little bit of a letdown. The second time I watched it was more enjoyable.
High praise for anything can definitely be a recipe for disappointment (except in the case of, perhaps, The Beatles). I try to limit how much I read about a film before I see it, but it can be difficult. I mean, I definitely want to know if I’m about to waste a couple hours of my life. We’re also in the age of the lazy, instant-feedback percentage of the Tomatometer. Just knowing a film’s Tomatometer score can set expectations and cloud judgement.
“Tomatometer” — funny. Sort of a negative concept. (from the Rotten Tomatoes site, right?)
This is generally me and films: one of my friends says it’s good, or I see a line somewhere here or there stating the same, then I see it. That’s about it. Then if it intrigues me I read more about it. I really try to go in there as “blank” as possible, and let whatever I’m seeing speak to me on its own terms. I’d say I’m pretty consistent about keeping any in depth information out of my brain until after the film.
As for wasting time, how do I know that one person’s waste of time is the same as mine? As far as I’m concerned, what one person disliked I might like, and find worth my time.
I wouldn’t call it overrated – no. It’s a timeless story in the same way as Bicycle Thieves and probably couldn’t be made again. It’s nostalgic for me as it takes me back to when I was 16 years old and in college. We had to watch this and Breathless and had to write an essay on FNW and auteur theory. I didn’t do it until I was on the bus on the way to class and somehow I suddenly started HYPERVENTILATING and had to scribble the essay down at the last minute.
Yeah, seriously.. even though It’s became something of a teachers pet movie, that is probably okay as it’s easy to teach to young students as an intro to auteur theory, but it is a shame that more to do with French cinema wasn’t taught in addition to that. Gance, Vigo, Renoir, Cocteau, Bresson, Marker, Rohmer and some French Crime Thrillers or you just name it, but I suppose that has to come later. Not that I’m any kind of expert on the French. I think Godard is much more interesting. The last french film I watched was Rohmer’s Marquise Of O.
The French have a word for the romanticising of Parisian culture – I have forgot what it is..
I should have put a ‘smiley’ after that – It was word play.
I agree with Jerry’s assessment.
I’d be interested to hear more women’s opinions of the film, since although early adolescence is a difficult period for everyone, a boy’s experience of it is different than a girl’s. The film is all boys and adults, there is no young female character in the film (which is not a criticism, just an observation).