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Bishops Castle Film Society

Les Quatre Cent Coups - 21st Feb 2018

F.Truffaut, Fr,1959, 99 m
Francois Truffaut wrote, “I demand that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not at all interested in anything in between.”
The title 'Les Quatre Cent Coups' can be translated as 'raising hell' and the film is celebrated as one of the most intensely touching stories ever made about a young adolescent. Inspired by Truffaut's own early life, it shows a resourceful boy growing up in Paris and apparently dashing headlong into a life of crime.
We meet Antoine when he is in his early teens, and living with his mother and stepfather in a crowded flat where they always seem to be squeezing out of each other's way. Both parents are away from home a lot, and neither has the patience to pay close attention to the boy; they judge him by appearances, and by the reports of others who misunderstand him.

Truffaut's film is not a dirge or entirely a tragedy. There are moments of fun and joy, as in one sequence shot looking down from above the street. It shows a physical education teacher leading the boys on a jog through Paris; two by two they peel off, until the teacher is at the head of a line of only two or three boys.
The happiest moment in the film comes after one of Antoine's foolish mistakes. He lights a candle to Balzac, which sets the little cardboard shrine on fire. His parents put out the flames, but then for once their exasperation turns to forgiveness, and the whole family goes to the movies and laughs on the way home.
The film's famous final shot, a zoom in to a freeze frame, shows Antoine looking directly into the camera. He has just run away from a house of detention, and is on the beach, caught between land and water, between past and future. It is the first time he has seen the sea.'
by Roger Ebert. 1999. www.rogerebert.com

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