The 400 Blows (1959) – slice

Freeze frame: will Antoine meet his Bazin, or will he be forever lost?

I’m confused; we learned French New Wave through Breathless and other batshit crazy Godard films, and boom, I finally watch this, and this film actually makes sense. What the hell?

Joke aside, this is, I think, the first non-blockbuster film I’ve watched since graduating in April. It’s kind of fitting, considering it was on my wishlist exactly since my first day of the cinema studies class, after my TA said it was her favourite.

Truffaut focuses on details. The mundane actions that culminate into something equally mundane–or something dramatic that is cinematically rendered mundane–are what take place of the most of the film. You don’t really get to feel Antoine or empathise with him, but rather, Truffaut just lets him be, exist in the diegesis, while we peek into his daily activities without much overarching plot. What should kickstart a story–the kid running away from his home–is soon rendered meaningless and Truffaut maintains the narrative uneasiness (of renying resolution) all the way through until he just, literally, freezes it.

This attention to detail is from Bresson. The social realism is obviously from the Italian neorealist masters that preceded Truffaut just few years before. What’s interesting however is that Truffaut seems to bring the camerawork of none other than–from what I understand–Hitchcock. It’s not entirely noticeable, but some of the long takes have Hitchcock’s eyes, shifting focus and flowing naturally to tell a story rather than show it. It strangely fits Antoine’s wandering personality, as well as the equally wandering narrative. In the end, I think it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is a work of homages, but as with all good homages, it transcends the source materials while respecting them to create something new–something next.

A baton well-passed, indeed.


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