One Shot is a series that seeks to find an essence of cinema history in one single image of a movie.
“A single frame is enough to show, from his [sic] choice and recording of matter, whether a director is talented, whether he is endowed with cinematic vision.”
—Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time
We go to the films of Truffaut to enmesh ourselves in theories of love at its maximalist. That’s because Truffaut was such a romantic: timid, shy, yet unafraid of what he portrayed in the mirror of the big screen. He could look at his too-feeling soul straight on and diagnose for the world to see and to feel less lonely. In Stolen Kisses, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) looks at himself in a mirror. In his ratty bathroom, he chants the names of three people whom he adores—Fabienne Tabard, Christine Darbon, and himself—over and over and over again. With each repetition, he strains for an ideal, a crisp perfection, some mystical code to his identity and to his lovers, which will always elude him. Here, Truffaut nails many truths, Rivette-style. Each time Doinel repeats the name of a beloved, the syllables start to transcend their origins in abstract symbology and gain some kind of conspiratorial significance. At the end of the shot, Doinel collapses in exhaustion. The spell of who-knows-what wears off. He sees how stupid he looks. He splashes his face in the washbasin, needing to wake from his love-induced madness. But it’s no use. He’s permanently under the spell of all the divinity those syllables stand for in his mind. Likewise, Truffaut keeps you in the space of his passion plays long after they’ve stopped playing. You are tempted to splash your face, but you never want to. Jean Eustache thought the only work to provide a “deep justification” for the nouvelle vague was Truffaut’s Two English Girls1; I’ll humbly add this two-minute shot of Truffaut’s boy Narcissus off the deep end.