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The 400 Blows (1959)
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Length:1 Hour 39 Minutes
Cast:Fran‡ois Truffaut, Jean-Pierre L‚aud, Robert Beauvais, Claire Maurier

One of the films that put the French new wave on the international map, THE 400 BLOWS also marked the transformation of Fran‡ois Truffaut from influential critic (at the Cahiers du Cinema) to influential director. The semiautobiographical movie about the adolescent Antoine Doinel, seemingly embarking on a life of crime, eschews sentimentality and easy extremes -- Antoine is no monster; his crimes are hardly outrageous -- to paint a sympathetic, if unblinking, portrait of the boy and his milieu (parents, school, pals, Paris). Jean-Pierre Leaud, in the first of his many portrayals of Truffaut's alter ego, is utterly believable as Antoine, the hard-luck kid with a taste for Balzac and cinema who is on the brink of adulthood in a slipshod world. Truffaut, one of the most beloved of all movie directors, started his career with a masterpiece: With its honesty, charm, humor, psychological acuity, and freewheeling visual language, The 400 Blows embodies all the virtues of the French New Wave. Rachel Saltz

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