François Truffaut's The 400 Blows follows Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) from school to home and back again. Our poor put-upon 12-year-old gets into trouble at every turn. Searching for happiness, he undertakes a couple of abortive attempts at running away, causing further trouble for himself in the process.

A simple plot description misses the point, as the titles "slice of life", "kitchen sink drama" and "Nouvelle Vague" reduces the power of such a brilliant film. Truffaut allows us to observe what just so happens to be going on. The incomparable quality of his direction, and that of the acting, never lets the observation become boring. The audience is charmed and enthralled from the very first scene.

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It is testament to the evocation of humanity that The 400 Blows does not appear dated today. It is from a more innocent age, but a film so completely about people as this remains timeless. If the plot dominated, it might not sit so well with modern audiences; what matters is Antoine Doinel and the people around him. They are as relevant today as they ever were.

I find it hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes this 44-year-old masterpiece such a powerful and enjoyable film. Perhaps the answer is the intangible genius of François Truffaut.

The 400 Blows is one of the best films I have ever seen.

Reviewed on: 10 Jan 2003
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Classic look at the life of a 12-year-old in Paris. Enjoying a big-screen reissue.
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Director: Francois Truffaut

Writer: Francois Truffaut

Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Remy, Patrick Auffay, Georges Flamant, Guy Decomble

Year: 1959

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France

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