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400 Blows full film and review

1959
Directed By Francois Truffaut
Starring Jean-Pierre Leaud and Albert Remy

This could easily be one of the most potent films about youth that I have ever seen. Supposedly based on Truffaut's own personal experiences, this is the story of a troubled young man who was never really given a chance. We are shown a trouble maker whose home life is terrible. Its not just the poverty but the lack of warmth and bleakness that fills our protagonists life that makes his at home experience so grim. When he acts out and runs head first into a life of crime we never hold him to task, instead we are left feeling empathy and understand why he makes the decisions he makes.

Nothing in this film feels unnecessary or dispensable every shot is essential and pulls us in further. Unlike many films today this movie is tight and lean. We are shown a young man who is an after thought to most of the people in his life. While some people border on kind, it is readily apparent that no one in the film is overly attached to this young man.

As we enter the second or third generation of latch key kids in our culture this film feels completely relevant over 50 years after its initial release. That is one of the marks of a truly great film. How it stands up to the test of time. Styles change, hair cuts and pants come in vogue (I wanted so badly to type en vogue) and go the way of the dodo but the truth will always be relevant. When a film speaks honestly about the human condition, the other things become window dressing, superfluous and easy to ignore. Not that this film doesn't look and sound great. This is a beautiful film that everyone should see.

This is not some obtuse masterpiece that is impossible to watch and you feel like you are supposed to enjoy it. No, this is an incredibly watchable film that I for one am a better person for having seen. I can't imagine many films that I would put in a satellite and send off to aliens so they might have a better understanding of what it means to be human, but this one is certainly one of them. Did that last sentence make any sense? Oh well, I just finished my second IPA of the night and I'm feeling pretty loose... so, fuck it, I'm leaving it in. This has gotten far too meta.

While this film is certainly soaked with sadness it also contains moments of joy that feel as real as anything else in the film. These moments are in no way saccharine or unearned. Like every other beat of this film these moments are justified and never feel out of place. Its never like the tag at the end of the local news where we see a squirrel on water skis.

You can watch the entire film below thanks to the fine folks over at Criterion.

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