Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud)

I have to admit that when I first heard the name of this movie I thought it was going to be about a boxer or an overworked prostitute. Turns out it’s just a saying that is as innocuous as ‘losing my religion’. It means ‘raising hell’.

The film is about Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) who is in his teenage years. His mother would rather show her tits off in tight sweaters to her boyfriend. His father seems to be nice enough, but thinks and treats the boy like he’s doing the mother and Antoine, who isn’t his biological child, a favor in taking care of him. This keeps him from having a loving and close relationship to his parents. As a result, he does stupid things like skipping school and provoking teachers who are just aching to punish somebody. He even says his mother died to excuse himself from missing school. This eventually will lead Antoine to be removed from his parents.

A large part of this film’s greatness lies in it’s context. This film is usually the demarcation point for the beginning of the French New Wave and thus the beginning of modern cinema. However, this isn’t Godard’s Breathless that rides almost entirely on it’s importance and not much more. For me what makes this movie magical is the way in which Truffaut treats the character of Antoine. Instead of treating him like a child, he treats him like a human being in his teenage years. This means that while certain things seem to have childhood whimsy to them, the world isn’t transformed into an “age appropriate” one. We still see the world as it is, just through a teenager’s eyes.

Then there is the famous tracking shot, the freeze frame at the end, the Hitchcock references, and much more. I highly recommend it.

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