At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
September features François Truffaut at Alliance Française.
At Alliance Française on Friday, September 4: Les quatre cents coups / The 400 Blows (1959) by François Truffaut – 96 mins – France, Drama/ Crime. English subtitles. B&W. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88 out of 100.
With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, Guy Decomble.
Antoine Doinel is 14 year old. His parents do not show much interest in him. He skips school to go to the movies and play with his friends. He discovers his mother has a lover. Antoine steals a typewriter, which leads to his suspension from school...
– Alliance description
Intensely touching story of a misunderstood young adolescent who left without attention, delves into a life of petty crime. A seminal French New Wave film that offers an honest, sympathetic, and wholly heartbreaking observation of adolescence without trite nostalgia.
A young Parisian boy, Antoine Doinel, neglected by his derelict parents, skips school, sneaks into movies, runs away from home, steals things, and tries (disastrously) to return them. Like most kids, he gets into more trouble for things he thinks are right than for his actual trespasses. Unlike most kids, he gets whacked with the big stick. He inhabits a Paris of dingy flats, seedy arcades, abandoned factories, and workaday streets, a city that seems big and full of possibilities only to a child's eye.
Rotten Tomatoes: Director FrançoisTruffaut's first feature film, The 400 Blows, is a landmark in French cinema. Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is a 13-year-old boy who can't seem to do anything right. His parents yell at him and then bribe him for his love and his promises to work harder in school. Meanwhile, his schoolteacher is out to get him and blames Antoine for everything--turning him into the class clown. As a result, Antoine runs away from school and his difficult family, living on the streets of Paris and committing petty crimes. While his life on the street is tough, it's much better than dealing with his preoccupied parents and his accusatory teacher. Nonetheless, things only go downhill for Antoine, descending to a simultaneously painful and beautiful conclusion. A truly impressive film, The 400 Blows is raw, honest, and intensely emotional. Imbued with a strong and complex personality, Antoine maintains his poise and self-confidence, even as he endures abusive treatment from every adult he encounters. René Simonet (Patrick Auffray) is Antoine's one pal, and the unspoken dialogues between the boys, depicted by Truffaut through the boys' facial expressions and with masterful roving photography, allow the viewer to see through Antoine's eyes and understand his unflinching tenacity. Few films have captured the difficulties of childhood as well as this acclaimed French masterpiece. Essentially the start of the French New Wave movement, The 400 Blows is also the beginning of Truffaut'sAntoine Doinel cycle, which follows Léaud as Antoine in five additional films over the course of 20 years.
At Alliance Française on Friday, September 11: Jules et Jim/ Jules and Jim (1962) by François Truffaut – 110 mins – France, Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. B&W. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 89 out of 100.
With JeanneMoreau, Oscar Werner, Henri Serre, Marie Dubois.
Two young men, Jules and Jim, have been the best of friends for many years, and their friendship becomes even more closer the day they discover that they love the same woman and that she loves them both… A strange situation indeed, but even stranger is this young woman who, although her behaviour could seem paradoxical to others, keeps a surprising simplicity and purity in the relationship with her two lovers.
– Alliance description
Decades of a love triangle concerning two friends and an impulsive woman.
Amazon.com, Sean Axmaker: François Truffaut's third feature, though it's named for the two best friends who become virtually inseparable in pre-World War I Paris, is centered on Jeanne Moreau's Catherine, the most mysterious, enigmatic woman in his career-long gallery of rich female portraits. Adapted from the novel by Henri-Pierre Roché, Truffaut's picture explores the 30-year friendship between Austrian biologist Jules (Oskar Werner) and Parisian writer Jim (Henri Serre) and the love triangle formed when the alluring Catherine makes the duo a trio. Spontaneous and lively, a woman of intense but dynamic emotions, she becomes the axle on which their friendship turns as Jules woos her and they marry, only to find that no one man can hold her. Directed in bursts of concentrated scenes interspersed with montage sequences and pulled together by the commentary of an omniscient narrator, Truffaut layers his tragic drama with a wealth of detail. He draws on his bag of New Wave tricks for the carefree days of youth--zooms, flash cuts, freeze frames--that disappear as the marriage disintegrates during the gloom of the postwar years. Werner is excellent as Jules, a vibrant young man whose slow, melancholy slide into emotional compromise is charted in his increasingly sad eyes and resigned face, while Serre plays Jim as more of an enigma, guarded and introspective. But both are eclipsed in the glare of Moreau's radiant Catherine: impulsive, demanding, sensual, passionate, destructive, and ultimately unknowable. A masterpiece of the French New Wave and one of Truffaut's most confident and accomplished films.
DVD available from Amazon.com.
At Alliance Française on Friday, September 18: La Peau Douce/ The Soft Skin (1964) by François Truffaut – 165 mins – France/ Portugal, Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. B&W. Generally favorable reviews: 74 out of 100.
With Françoise Dorléac, Jean Desailly, Nelly Bénédetti, Daniel Ceccaldi.
Pierre Lachenay is a well-known publisher and lecturer, married with Franca and father of Sabine, around 10. He meets an air hostess, Nicole. They start a love affair, which Pierre is hiding, but he cannot stand staying away from her…
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: The Soft Skin, from one of the New Wave's most prolific directors, François Truffaut, is a brilliant classic replete with intrigue, emotion, and stunning imagery. This anatomy of an affair between successful publisher and novelist Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly), and airline stewardess Nicole (Françoise Dorléac), begins on Lachenay's trip to Lisbon for a lecture. On the airplane he watches, enraptured, as Nicole changes out of her work shoes and into sexy, sling-back pumps. From there, his lust for her only grows, and he begins a deeply involved affair with her that continues back in Paris. Meanwhile Lachenay's perfect bourgeoise wife, Franca (Nelly Benedetti) is entertaining friends and playing with their cute five-year-old daughter, Sabine (Sabine Haudepin), seemingly unaware of her husband's strange behavior. But when Franca discovers that he's been cheating and may even be in love, she reacts irrationally. The Soft Skin's surprising finale is one of the most memorable in film history. Perhaps it is Truffaut's attention to detail that builds so much tangible emotion into his films. The camera seems to skim over surfaces, examine the unattractive angles of people's faces, read street signs. In the car, the camera is riding in the back seat, but as the car speeds up, it's pressed against the windshield. In The Soft Skin, Truffaut expresses a precise emotion with each sequence. Viewers of the film are so often nervous because of the way Lechenay's gaze flits around, blurring up the scenery, frantically. Then, when Lechenay is with his lover, Nicole, the light is bright, the gaze is steady, the mood is triumphant. In the final scenes, as the cobblestones of Parisian boulevards whiz by chaotically, we are reminded of the suspenseful clues given in Hitchcock movies, and we know what is about to happen. At once beautiful and hilariously observant, Truffaut's expressive visuals make The Soft Skin an inarguable masterpiece.
DVD available from Amazon.com.