Dedicating the film to his mentor André Bazin, 27-year-old critic-turned-director François Truffaut put his critical views into practice in his debut feature, The 400 Blows (1959). Unlike the French "Tradition of Quality" literary adaptations that he reviled, Truffaut looked to his own childhood for the source of Antoine Doinel's delinquent exploits in The 400 Blows, evoking Jean Vigo's Zero for Conduct (1933). Inspired by the stylistics of favorites like Orson Welles and Jean Renoir, Truffaut's moving camera and long takes, combined with location shooting and natural sound, lent Antoine's tribulations a fresh, fluid immediacy that caught critics' and audiences' attention. His innovative final freeze-frame suspending Antoine in an indeterminate future spawned numerous imitations. The Cannes Film Festival gave The 400 Blows the Best Director prize one year after banning Truffaut for his critical harshness; the New York Film Critics' Circle awarded it Best Foreign Film. Released the same year as Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour and Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, The 400 Blows' international success helped put Truffaut at the forefront of the nascent French New Wave. He would continue Antoine Doinel's story in three more features, Stolen Kisses (1968), Bed and Board (1970), Love on the Run (1979), and one short, Antoine and Colette (1962).
by Lucia Bozzola review