Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959)

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Les Quatre Cents Coups is a drama film starring Jean-Pierre Léaud and directed by François Truffaut. Antoine Dionel is a teenager living in early 1950s Paris. His mother, stepfather as well as his teacher misunderstand him and torment him. When he is caught plagiarizing by his teacher, Antoine quits school. Later he steals his stepfather’s typewriter to finance his plans to run away from home. When he tries to return it, however, his stepfather takes him to the police. Antoine is put in an observation center for troubled juveniles and a psychiatrist analyzes reasons why Antoine might be unhappy.

I recently watched this film for my French 3 class. I very much enjoyed the film. To me it reminded me of American films such as Rebel Without a Cause that dealt with what were “misunderstood” teens of 1950s society. It’s interesting to see the dynamic of the family structure of the 1950s where it was still normal to consider the teenager as a mini-adult rather than their own respective age. It is said Antoine Dionel is François Truffaunt’s alter ego and it is very clear that this fact is true By the way the film is directed, you can tell Truffaunt is basing it off his own life experiences as a child. Léaud does a good job in making Antoine Dionel a very real character also. You feel for Antoine from the moment he is falsely wronged for having the inappropriate poster of a woman in class to the moment he escapes to the ocean. It was a great film and it certainly deserves its praise.

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