Les 400 Coups (1959)
My sister and I went to see Francois Truffaut's debut feature Les 400 Coups/The 400 Blows last night at the Vancouver International Film Centre. It was presented by Ken Eisner, a writer who often contributes reviews to the Georgia Straight which are often quite funny. Anyways it was a great screening, the print was wonderful, and of course those seats are amazing. It's quite a nice theatre.
As for the film, well, it's obviously excellent. I'd hazard to suggest that if one were going to see only one significant French film from the past, oh, century, then it should probably be The 400 Blows. It's Truffaut's mostly-autobiographical account of 14-year old Antoine Doinel living in 50s Paris who gets into trouble at every turn, mostly due to (often negligent) adults completely misunderstanding what a kid needs. So Doinel gets himself into bad situations, and between his parents, his teachers, and the police, nobody can give him what he needs. The only person he can rely on is his good friend Rene. Their boyish relationship is one of my favorites in cinema, and is just great film about a couple of friends hanging out and often getting up to no good. That's something this film does well, is put itself in the shoes of a kid without feeling condescending.
Many, many people have written about this film, and probably all are more eloquent than myself, so if you know about this film, then there are endless resources out there to get more in-depth. All you need to know to know from me, however, is just go see it. Ideally in a cinema, but if not, make sure you get the Criterion DVD from somewhere. It's fantastic. Gorgeous cinematography, some wonderful music, and extraordinarily naturalistic performances from an astonishing young cast. A number of these actors would return in Truffaut's second feature, Shoot The Piano Player/Tirez Sur Le Pianist.