400 Blows is a film, published in 1959, directed by François Truffaut. It’s one of the earliest French New Wave film. Also Truffaut was one of the founder of French New Wave along with Godard, Rivette, and so on. French New Wave is simply a rebel movement in cinema, where visual storytelling has been forgotten in that late 50s. They simply try to improve/experiment with their own technique to communicate with audience.
François Truffaut was special, and generally more popular comparing to other French Newwave directors. It’s because his choice of camera movement, blocking, and subject. After I watched 400 Blows, the film inspired many film directors who are currently alive.
First of all, his blocking technique is similar to Hollywood Classical Cinema. He tends making a scene with multi layered movement between the characters with a long take. Which I found very similar to Classical Cinema and steven spielberg. It’s an ironic to think about how similar the blocking technique between this french newwave film and Classical cinema
Following the blocking technique, the camera movement also make me think very similar to classical cinema as well. Unlike Godard’s Breathless, this film does not use handheld as much. But, with a long take with slow dolly in, slide in technique to perfect marked blocking, I can see how delicate all the shots are.
Now, it gives me a question. If all of these technique was used in Classical Hollywood Cinema, and why Truffaut called himself a French Newwave? I found these answers through 400 Blows’s theme, tone, subject, and usage of on-location set.
If this film was made in Hollywood at that era, probably the movie will be written about how a misunderstood boy becomes a gangster. Now, Truffaut didn’t make the movie like a gangster movie, the story isn’t focused on what he becomes. It was focused on what he thinks, and what he feels. Not only that his lighting technique were rather natural rather than extreme lowkey nor highkey. He used actual street with daylight on location. Comparing to Touch of evil’s stylized shots, the film is rather simple, and still life like, may be even close to Italian Neo-realism.
At the end, I was very surprised myself that Truffaut’s film is considered as French New Wave early film. It’s because the shots were so clean and prepared comparing to Godard. It was my first time watching the film. I think I became a huge fan of his film.
Note: I cried so much at the end of the scene.