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Posts Tagged ‘François Truffaut’

Truffaut and Godard in Defense of The Cinémathèque Française, 1968

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard speak in defense of the Cinémathèque Française.

This 60 second spot ran in numerous French film theaters during the events of May, 1968, when the future of the Cinémathèque Française under the leadership of Henri Langlois was in jeopardy. French cultural minister André Malraux, at the direction of then-president Charles de Gaulle, tried to fire Langlois, who had founded the Cinémathèque Française, and was a hero to young cinéastes. The reaction was immediate – Truffaut, Godard, and the rest of the French Nouvelle Vague directors simply weren’t going to let this happen.

The protest against Langlois’ attempted dismissal quickly became an international affair, even in the pre-internet era, and filmmakers around the world threatened to pull their films from the Cinémathèque’s collection unless Langlois was reinstated. Eventually, Malraux backed down, and Langlois was restored to his post, though with reduced government funding. This advertisement played a small part in the affair, and it’s refreshing to see two world renowned filmmakers coming to the defense of cinema as an art form.

Here’s a rough translation:

Godard: “In general, films are shown commercially for seven years. After that, they’re shown in art theaters, like this one.”
Truffaut: “If their life can sometimes be extended, it’s thanks to Henri Langlois’ efforts in preserving them at the Cinémathèque Française.”
Godard: “If you’ve chosen to see the film you’re about to see tonight, or if you like to see a film you enjoy several times, you are already a friend of the Cinémathèque.”
Truffaut: “So become a member of the Committee for the Defense of The Cinémathèque Française now.”

This brief film was shot on March 14, 1968; you can see it by clicking here, or on the image above.

The 400 Blows (1959)

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Jean-Pierre Léaud in The 400 Blows

François Truffaut’s first feature is also one of his most personal, and most deeply felt, and agave young Jean-Pierre Léaud his signature role as perpetual adolescent Antoine Doinel. Loosely based on Truffaut’s own troubled childhood, the film now looks like a valentine to a lost era, both in terms of cultural values and social mores.

Antoine’s infractions are minor, but he is punished severely, and in the end of the film, as he escapes from a reform school, Truffaut offers a superb tracking shot, in which Antoine runs and runs, seemingly forever, only to arrive at the edge of the sea, unable to run any further. The film won the Best Director Award at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival; Truffaut promptly turned around and used the money that went with the prize to partially finance Jean Cocteau’s last film, The Testament of Orpheus.

This was only fitting, actually, since Cocteau had masterfully campaigned for the film to win, but as usual, his energy was put behind the right cause — The 400 Blows is one of the best films ever made about the joys and difficulties of childhood, especially a childhood in a broken home.

As Annette Insdorf writes,

“François Truffaut’s first feature, The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups), was more than a semi-autobiographical film; it was also an elaboration of what the French New Wave directors would embrace as the caméra-stylo (camera-as-pen) whose écriture (writing style) could express the filmmaker as personally as a novelist’s pen. It is one of the supreme examples of “cinema in the first person singular.” In telling the story of the young outcast Antoine Doinel, Truffaut was moving both backward and forward in time—recalling his own experience while forging a filmic language that would grow more sophisticated throughout the ‘60s.

The 400 Blows (whose French title comes from the idiom, faire les quatre cents coups—“to raise hell”) is rooted in Truffaut’s childhood. Born in Paris in 1932, he spent his first years with a wet nurse and then his grandmother, as his parents had little to do with him. When his grandmother died, he returned home at the age of eight. An only child whose mother insisted that he make himself silent and invisible, he took refuge in reading and later in the cinema.”

Click here, or on the image above, to see the original trailer from the film.

Les Mistons

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

François Truffaut’s breakthrough short Les Mistons (The Brats, 1957) is an idyllic film of summer, romance, childhood – and tragedy. As I noted in my essay on the film in Senses of Cinema 38, “François Truffaut’s Les Mistons was the director’s first short film of any real consequence. Truffaut had completed one short narrative film before in 16mm, Une Visite (1955), which had the distinction of being shot by Jacques Rivette and edited by Alain Resnais, both then members of the critical circle at Cahiers du Cinéma.

Une Visite was shot very simply in Jacques Doniol-Valcroize’s apartment, and was considered an experiment by all concerned, but all the participants in the project were dissatisfied with the results. Truffaut was subsequently working on the script that would become Les Quatre cents coups (1959), but found financing difficult to come by, and decided to go ahead with Les Mistons instead.”

It was a smart move; this moving, seemingly evanescent short film is one of Truffaut’s most romantic, and most personal works; you can read my essay here.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu. Visit him at his website wheelerwinstondixon.com.

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