Tag: Francois Truffaut

May 22, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

Jules and Jim – 1962 – dir. Francois Truffaut

I think I am not far off-the-mark in saying this country has never been as French as it was in the 1960s. The election of John F. Kennedy to the White House as the decade began introduced the beautiful and very French Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy to our culture and our world. Who wasn’t seduced by her pouty, French whisper, her tres chic chignon and French flips, her preference for French fashion designers over American? The Kennedys, it was known, employed a French, not an American, chef, and we citizens were treated to a French Chef of our own in the person of Julia Child who boldly brought French cuisine into our dining rooms. Traveling to Paris was all the rage for students in those years, and it was a big deal to be able to say you spent a semester or a summer in Toulouse or Bordeaux.  The innovative movie critic, Pauline Kael, let us know that a tantalizing, new world of French and foreign-made movies was out there, fresh for the tasting.  As Mathew White, an ex-patriate writer living in Paris at the time, wrote in his luminous novel, “Cigarette”, “If it’s French, it must be exciting.”

December 15, 2008 / / Film Notes

Reviewed by Paula Delaney
Shoot the Piano Player – 1960 – dir. Francois Truffaut

This 1960 French film starring Charles Aznavour tells a story that has the ingredients of romance, drama, and comic tragedy. The main character, Charlie Kohler (Edouard Saroyan) is played by Aznavour in a persona that might remind one of Peter Sellers, due to his expressions of his emotions, or lack thereof. The film is in black and white and the cinematography is representative of foreign films at the time. The music throughout the film evokes a carnival type of atmosphere, and gradually heightens the irony of the plot.

“Maybe it’s something in his glands,” one teacher haplessly suggests when trying to determine just what it is that has gone wrong with Antoine Doinel, the troubled adolescent protagonist in visionary French director François Truffaut’s stunning, semiautobiographical 1959 debut feature The 400 Blows (the English title is a puzzlingly literal translation of a French phrase meaning roughly, “to raise hell”). Of course it isn’t Antoine’s glands that are the problem. Neglected and too-obviously unwanted at home, Antoine finds little of the care and understanding he needs at school either. The first time we meet him in the film, he’s already in trouble, caught with a dirty picture that was passed to him by the other boys. His luck continues in this fashion, and soon the sensitive and intelligent but misunderstood boy has gone from cutting school to running away from home and engaging in petty theft. The film’s final shot – a freeze frame close-up of Antoine on the beach – has become one of the most iconic and most often imitated images in world cinema, a simple but extremely potent portrait of a young man alone and uncertain of his future. The story, apocryphal or not, that Truffaut actually ran out of film on the beach doesn’t lessen the brilliance of that parting shot – a celebrated and hugely influential film critic before he got behind a camera, Truffaut knew a good thing when he saw it.