Thursday, February 24, 2011

The 400 Blows - Movie Review

'The 400 Blows' is a critically acclaimed French film made in 1959 directed by Francois Truffaut. It is a story of a young school kid Antoine Doinel who is considered a trouble maker at school and at home and how he copes with it by rebelling and running away.

Antoine is a spirited young lad who appears to do what most adolescents do, only he gets caught most of the time. When the movie begins the boys in school at looking at some pictures of a woman and Antoine is caught while defacing it and passing it on. He is made to sit in a corner of the room where he writes a poem on the wall about his teacher. The teacher, increasingly tired of the rebellious and mischievous boys, makes Antoine clean it up.At home his parents are both working and always late. His mother seems distracted with work at her office, late hours with the boss and her husband doe snot approve of all that. He himself works at a racing club. Between a jolly and optimistic father who is generally good fun and a distracted mother who appears keen to send the boy away, Antoine somehow tries to find his bearings.

Antoine and his best friend Rene miss the school bus the next day and decide to spend the day around Paris, having fun on their lunch money. They go to the circus, window shop and while walking around happen to see Antoine's mother kissing another man. The mother sees him too but they ignore one another. That night his mother is later, and he has dinner with his father, and while in bed he overhears their conversation about how he is better off in a boarding school. Antoine is also aware that he was born out of a wedlock and his father only gave him his name.

The next day when Antoine goes to school without an excuse letter, Rene tells him to shock the teacher by telling him something like his mother broke her leg. Antoine does better - he tells his teacher that his mother died. Of course all hell breaks loose when the school contacts the parents and Antoine is slapped publicly and taken home disgraced. His mother tries to talk to him and let him express himself and in that moment, Antoine reads a story by Balzac which is uses to write an essay in school. The teacher hauls him up for plagiarism and sends him to the Principal but Antoine runs away. he is followed by Rene who stands up for him. The two run away, hide in Rene's house which is generally empty because his father is always at the races and his smother at the club drinking. Antoine tells his parents he is off and will come back when he is a man. In a couple of days the boys are caught stealing and replacing a typewriter from the office of Antoine's father and handed back. Police, juvenile home and the parents are counseled to let the boy be in the home for a few months so he learns.

But the high spirited Antoine, the same one who gets caught while returning the typewriter, the same one who is inspired by Balzac to write a story of his grandfather's death, the boy who does not tell his father or even his mother that he saw her kissing another man, runs away from the home and runs and runs until he finds the ocean - a place he has never ever been to, or seen. And he turns back after wetting his feet. Nothing wrong with the boy it appeared to me, everything wrong with all those responsible.

'The 400 Blows' is beautiful. It shows the boy as he is, reacting and trying to make sense of the world around him in his own way. He will not be cowed down, he will still be himself and rebel, he will make fun of the teacher behind his back, he will steal the typewriter and he will run away. Just as Rene sticks up to his friend in class only to be debarred from class. I found many similarities to Gulzar's 'Kitaab' a sensitive movie about a school kid who runs away with Master Raju in the lead role. I liked that movie too.


Rajendra said...

Udaan is another good one on a similar theme. Kitaab was also good!

Harimohan said...

Udaan - all DVDs and VCDs off the racks. The theatres did not give the movie much time to exhibit as usual being in a hurry to play their load of commercial movies. But it is amazing - I find that the Udaan DVDs are almost always out of stock. I only hope that it is because of great sales and not bad distribution! But that is one on my list of to-watch.