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:: Francois Truffaut Collection: The Adventures of Antoine Doinel

“The Adventures of Antoine Doinel” is a collection of movies written and directed by legendary French filmmaker Francois Truffaut, a former film critic who helped usher in the New Wave of French Cinema which inspired the likes of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and many others.

There are four full length feature films in the series, and one short film entitled “Antoine & Collette”. The films focus on the exploits of the immature yet charming Antoine Doinel, played by Jean-Pierre Leaud.

THE 400 BLOWS (1959)
“The 400 Blows” is a semi-biographical film based on the childhood of its writer/director Francois Truffaut. The film focuses on young adolescent Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud), a mischievous juvenile who is in constant strife from his parents and teachers. His attempts to do right backfire, and after an accusation of plagiarism by his teacher, he takes to the streets and dabbles in petty theft. When his stepfather catches him red handed, he hands Antoine over to the police, who send him to a juvenile detention centre. Once there, the traumatic consequences that made him such a mischievous child come to the forefront via a psychiatric analysis.

Truffaut’s ode to his childhood is an engrossing watch that is alluring in its simplicity and brilliant in its direction. It flows nicely at its own pace, never allowing melodrama to ruin its realistic and voyeuristic atmosphere. There is no plot to speak of, nor is there a character arc to cling to. It just is. To some this may seem to be a boring form of entertainment, yet not all film is based on the concept to put on a show. Sometimes the most banal of film entertainment can provide the most invigorating film experiences.

STOLEN KISSES (1968)
9 years after, Francois Truffaut and Jean-Pierre Leaud re-unite for another chapter in the life of Antoine Doinel with “Stolen Kisses”. The film begins with Antoine dishonourably discharged from the army due to his (still) mischievous behaviour. Upon re-entering civilian life, he stumbles into the job of private detective, and is subsequently placed on an obscure case, where he has to solve why an owner of a shoe store (Michael Lonsdale) is loathed by those around him. In the process Antoine falls in love with his client’s wife (Leaud Delphine), while also trying to woo long time love interest Christine (Claude Jade).

“Stolen Kisses” is a sub-standard French romance/caper farce, which features a nonsensical plot that spirals into too many side stories. The screenplay lacks wit and substance. Its supposed comedic elements fall flat, and its crime/mystery angle does not contain an iota of intrigue. It is an unexceptional follow up to an exceptional film.

BED & BOARD (1970)
The Adventures of Antoine Doinel continues with “Bed and Board”, which is a vast improvement to the patchy “Stolen Kisses”. Jean-Pierre Leaud returns as Antoine, who is now happily married to Christine (Claude Jade). He works as a florist, while Christine gives violin lessons from their apartment. It does not take long for Christine to fall pregnant, and she gives birth to a bouncing baby boy. However, Antoine’s affair with Japanese tourist Kyoto (Hiroko Berghaurer) threatens to tear his marriage apart.

Whilst “The 400 Blows” looked at adolescence, and “Stolen Kisses” looked at love, “Bed and Board” focuses on marriage, and whilst doing so takes on a much more realistic slant on the trials and pitfalls of relationships compared to the previous film. The script is much sharper, and Francois Truffaut’s direction is much more focused, with the performances the better for it. “Bed and Board” is a charming, pleasant and touching film, and the best sequel of the series.

LOVE ON THE RUN (1979)
“Love on the Run” is the final film in the Antoine Doinel series, and is as much a nostalgic trip through the evolution of Francois Truffaut’s seminal character (provided via numerous flashbacks), as it is a fitting conclusion. Antoine (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is now in is thirties, and is freshly divorced from his wife Christine (Claude Jade). He works as a proof reader and is in a rocky relationship with record seller Sabine (Dorothee). A chance encounter with his first love Collette (Marie-France Pisier) forces Antoine to examine the relationships with all of the women in his life.

This film is perhaps the most interesting of the Doinel sequels, since it focuses just as much on the women who have inhabited and help shape Antoine’s life than it does on Antoine himself. Of particular interest is his relationship with his mother, which re-surfaces after Antoine runs into an old friend of his mothers, and culminates when Antoine visits his mother’s grave for the first time. The film –and thus the series - ends on a happy note for Antoine, but one can’t help but wonder if his dependence for chaos will be kept in check, or if it will continue to disrupt his life. Sadly, the latter seems more likely.

DVD Extras

THE 400 BLOWS
Les Mistons, Francois Truffaut's 1957 Short Film (18 Mins)
Original Theatrical Trailer
Francois Truffaut Filmography
Umbrella Propaganda

STOLEN KISSES
•Antoine & Colette
•Francois Truffaut Trailer Collection
•Francois Truffaut Filmography
•Original Theatrical Trailer

BED AND BOARD
Francois Truffaut Filmography
Original Theatrical Trailer

LOVE ON THE RUN
•Francois Truffaut Filmography
•Original Theatrical Trailer