87 – The 400 Blows

Welcome to The Best Movies I’ve Never Seen! This is the part of the blog where I work my way through 100 films I’ve never seen that are generally considered to be great. You’re invited to watch along with me if you can find a copy or find it streaming. So grab some popcorn and let’s get started!

The 400 Blows

1959

Directed by Francois Truffaut

Quick synopsis… A 12-year-old boy turns to crime to escape family problems.

  • This film is part of The Criterion Collection and, therefore, is available to watch on HBO Max if you want to watch along.
  • HBO Max likes to brag about having Criterion movies, but they clearly don’t have them all because there are some on this list that are Criterion but not on HBO Max.
  • I wonder why they don’t have them all…
  • Probably copyright laws and usage rights and some other such nonsense.
  • So we’re following the story of this kid named Antoine.
  • I can’t honestly say I’m following everything that’s happening…
  • Mostly because of the French.
  • I mean, sure, I have the subtitles on…
  • Antoine seems like the kind of kid who’s always getting into trouble.
  • I don’t think he’s always asking for it, but like a lot of kids I’ve worked with before, if he has the reputation of being a troublemaker, then he’s an easy target.
  • His teacher is kind of a jerk… but all the kids in class are disrespectful, so it’s a vicious cycle.
  • At home, his parents treat him like crap.
  • He skips school with a friend to go to the movies and play pinball.
  • While out, he catches his mother kissing a man who isn’t his father.
  • Things escalate when he claims his mother died after being asked about his absence from school by the teacher.
  • But when his parents show up at school, his dad slaps him across the face a few times in front of the rest of the class.
  • Antoine is ready to run away from home at this point.
  • In spite of spending a night alone in Paris, he returns to school the next day.
  • His mother comes and takes him back home and is uncharacteristically nice to him.
  • She makes a deal with him that if he does well on his next essay, she’ll give him 1,000 francs.
  • I wonder how much that is in 1959 dollars…
  • His teacher accuses him of plagiarizing his essay and he then runs from the school.
  • To get some money, Antoine and his friend decide to steal a typewriter from his dad’s workplace so they can sell it.
  • But when they can’t sell it, Antoine decides to take it back to the office.
  • He’s caught returning the typewriter and his father is called.
  • Antoine’s dad takes him to the police because he doesn’t know what to do with the kid anymore, thinking if they take him home, he’ll just run away again.
  • After spending the night in jail, his mother reveals to the judge that his father is really his stepfather.
  • Antoine is then sent to a troubled youth center near the shore.
  • Here, he is interviewed by a psychologist and we get a lot of insight into why he’s made the choices he’s made.
  • Most of what he tells her makes a lot of sense.
  • His mother visits and basically tells him that they’ve washed their hands of him… that he’s good for nothing more than reform school or a labor camp.
  • Later, while playing soccer with the other boys, he makes a run for it, escaping from the troubled youth center.
  • He makes his way to the ocean and things just end.
  • Fin.
  • I mean… It’s good to know that kids with a troubled home life haven’t changed much over the years.
  • It’s also good to know that those kinds of children now have more options available for receiving help, rather than just being written off as troublemakers who are good for nothing.
  • The film is beautifully shot and, I’d say, worth the watch if you’re good with subtitles.
  • Having now seen The 400 Blows, it currently ranks at 1,164 out of 2,251 movies on my personal Flickchart list.

Have you seen The 400 Blows? If so, what did you think of it? This movie ranks as a favorite among filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa and Woody Allen. I was confused by the title, so I looked up the meaning. Apparently The 400 Blows is a literal English translation of the French title, which is an idiom which means “to raise hell.” Next week’s title is much more straightforward: The Passion of Joan of Arc, which I assume will also be in French.

3 thoughts on “87 – The 400 Blows

  1. Pingback: What Are the Best Movies I’ve Never Seen? | The Confusing Middle

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