Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, Claire Maurier
Director: François Truffaut
Running Time: 99 mins
The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) is a French film about a young boy, failing in school and suffering in his family life, who turns to a life of petty crime, only for his situation to worsen.
This film is fascinating. As well as simply being a great character study, it’s an interesting look into how poorly many children were treated in France at the time. Also, it’s a fantastically directed and acted film that does really grab you right from the start.
Let’s start, though, with the very harsh nature of this story. Assessing the idea whether strong punishment actually worsens the situation of a young criminal, this film is a constantly depressing and upsetting sight to see, as it shows that this is idea is true.
From the start, you see that his family life is relatively harsh, while his school is extremely strict, however you have the belief that there is some salvation for this young boy in his family, so as the story unfolds in a very realistic but harsh way, it becomes more apparent that there is no saving grace for him, although it may not be through any fault of his own.
In terms of the main character, the young boy, Antoine Doinel, it’s a fascinating story to follow along. A character that, while you can see is clearly a little bit of a troublemaker, is simply misunderstood by his family and his teachers, and as you do get the opportunity to hear his thoughts at points during the film, you know the real case of what he believes is right.
And that’s why the later stages of the film are so depressing and hard-hitting. He is a boy that tries to do good, but seeing as almost everything he does gets him into some degree of trouble, it frustrates him and inevitably forces him to a life of crime. What’s worse is when you see him being punished so unjustly at points all the way throughout the film, because you know that this really is wrong.
Away from the main bulk of the film, this is also technically brilliant. Some stunning directing and cinematography, using a lot of dark images in very enclosed spaces for the majority of the film to mirror the nature of Doinel’s life, while it has a very subtle but very effective score, especially towards the end, that just gets into your mind and messes with it, making the film all the more fascinating and hard-hitting, and that’s why it gets an 8.2.