Wednesday, June 3, 2009

LES QUATRE CENTS COUPS (Francois Truffaut, 1959, France) Antoine Doinel is held static by the centrifugal force of his life; he fights against his environment but remains grounded by his family’s repressive gravity. Writer/Director Francois Truffaut’s exploration of his own tormented childhood is as viable now as it was in 1959, in this age where irresponsible parents want the government to fix their familial meltdown and raise their violent children. Antoine is a victim of his environment; his mother abandoned him and preferred an abortion to his lovely presence, his natural-father exempt. Now his infelicitous mother and stepfather argue incessantly about her fidelity, this strife resounding through the young boy’s very core: does he really stand a chance? Truffaut begins the film with the Eiffel Tower seen from the back streets and neighborhoods surrounding the icon, giving life to Paris beyond the glamour of fantasy. His cinema-verite style becomes a young man’s perspective as the buildings loom like angry adults over Antoine, the gloom of dirty and crowded streets echoing his despair and emotional isolation. Finally, he commits a petty act of stealing his stepfather’s typewriter to sell for a few pounds. Unable to pawn it, Antoine attempts to put it back, showing his tilted but sincere morality, but he is caught red-handed. His stepfather presses charges and Antoine is incarcerated overnight then deported to a youth detention facility. The smell of salt air and freedom are too much for our young hero and he escapes, trapped between the vast ocean and a tragic past: where can he go? (A+)

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