The 400 Blows

Not rated yet!
Director
François Truffaut
Runtime
1 h 39 min
Release Date
4 May 1959
Genres
Drama
Overview
For young Parisian boy Antoine Doinel, life is one difficult situation after another. Surrounded by inconsiderate adults, including his neglectful parents, Antoine spends his days with his best friend, Rene, trying to plan for a better life. When one of their schemes goes awry, Antoine ends up in trouble with the law, leading to even more conflicts with unsympathetic authority figures.
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VJ Morton1
Right Wing Film Geek



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)
  • Melies > Marty
    (”The 400 Blows” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Melies > Marty

    HUGO (Martin Scorsese, USA, 2011, 5)

    If the credits were removed from this movie, you could be forgiven for thinking it was Un Film de Steven Spielberg, what with the state-of-the-art special effects, the daddy abandonment issues and the combination of Jude Law and robots. (Spielberg IS releasing a 3-D movie based on a beloved piece of kid-lit set in a retro French environment this Christmas, isn’t he?) Jokes aside, what makes the first half of HUGO so dire is that feels like a mere entry point, Scorsese going through the motions to get to what he really cares about (and if you know what the second half of the film is about, the wheel spinning becomes actively painful). Scorsese is too much of a sheer cinematic virtuoso to produce something literally without merit, but the first hour of HUGO comes pretty doggone close. Practically the first thing written in my notes is “trying so hard to be ‘magical,’ just coming across as bossy.” The next thing is “oh no … grumpy adult meets cute moppet, why O Lord.” And finally “a key hole (on a broken robot, vjm now) in the shape of a heart, WHY O LORD!!!” And there were plenty more examples of plot points and (especially) dialog that was so on-the-nose, underlined, highlighted and with arrows-pointing that all I could do was snort in disgust. In the worst bit, two kids, the titular Hugo and his adventure-seeking Girl Friday discuss his obsession with clocks and robots: “I’m sad looking at machines that don’t work … it’s like they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing” (by this point, the conversation subtext is perfectly clear) / “maybe people are like that” (vjm starts to groan) / “like Papa Georges” (vjm tosses head against back of his seat in disgust). At the very end of the film, for the really really REALLY dumb, Papa Georges credits the boy “who saw a broken machine and fixed it” (vjm throws popcorn at the screen; or would have if he’d gotten any).

    There are other problems with what we might call the “human” stories surrounding Hugo, apart from minor annoyances like French signs while everyone speaks British English, even when reading aloud from a book whose French words we can see on the page. More importantly, there are just too many cinematic allusions here, so that you feel exhausted even before you actually get to the Georges Melies Film History Lecture. The magpie-written script steals from everything from THE 400 BLOWS and UNDER THE ROOFS OF PARIS to GRAND ILLUSION and THE RULES OF THE GAME; and those are just the French talkies. And it’s all in service of a “human” story that is hackneyed and uninteresting … just warmed over tropes from hundreds of better kids films, such as the Spielbergian Absent Daddy.

    Sasha Baron Cohen’s bumbling French railroad inspector is potentially a fun character. But the leg calipers and war wounds wear too heavily on a role that’s basically a John Cleese imitation of Inspector Clouseau (at one of Cohen’s metronomic interrogations of Hugo, I wanted to interject “this parrot has ceased to BEEE”). And his comic broadness also works against his scenes courting a flower girl, which I think are meant to be poignant on account of being a homage to Chaplin’s CITY LIGHTS or something.

    So Scorsese failed to create characters and situations that matter, but what he HAS done that merits the mixed 5 grade, beyond the Melies homage, is make the first film to give me a half-second’s pause about my ideological opposition to 3D (even Herzog’s CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS used 3D to take full advantage of a pre-existing world, not to create a fictional one from scratch). Partly, it’s that Scorsese uses the process not for loud action but for some lovely and magical effects — the ashes from the burnt notebook, the floating of Melies’ sketches throughout his bedroom. But it’s also that he integrates it with conventional cinematic grammar and directorial stratagems, making 3D seem more like a tool than a mere gimmick. A simple focus pull within a shot acquires 10 times the force when the newly-in-focus object pops out the screen at you as well. Scorsese also uses every angle in the book, especially overheads and low-angle shots. The multiple planes and internal spaces that 3D accentuates acquire a prominence beyond “look what I can do,” becoming instead a bid to create the comprehensive space of an entire world. And while Cohen’s leering face was an obvious effect, his Doberman pinscher’s much less comic snout and teeth were thereby not.

    Scorsese also picked — segue alert — a subject more ideal than you might have thought for a 3D homage. It’s not just that Melies was an inventor and a mechanical tinkerer, but also that his films, with their tableaux stagings, artificial sets and fantastical storylines profit handsomely from Scorsese’s 3D re-creations of the films and the Melies studio near the end (aquarium lobsters FTW!!). He also uses the most-iconic, if possibly apocryphal, story of early audiences’ reactions to movies and re-creates it for us, translated into 3D that even in 2011 we’re also still only semi-used-to. Though I think it was a little much to use the SAFETY LAST shot in the same movie in which the character in question had watched the Lloyd film, Scorsese does get away with a separate cheat (and then a double cheat) thanks to a line about the nature of the movies from earlier in the film.

    I also noticed (and noticed nobody else noticing) how Scorsese got right something about Melies films that must have been a bear to reproduce — their color schemes. Melies hand-tinted many of his films but the resulting look was nothing like hard-edged, realistic color photography, but had the texture of castor sugar. The films thus more resembled chalk drawings in various pastels, as though objects or clothes or backgrounds were bonbons or various flavors of ice cream.

    I do think, though, that Scorsese way overreached in one respect of his cinema history segment. I am a huge fan of silent films and Lord knows I’d love to see 1/10 of HUGO’s audience be sufficiently intrigued to check out Melies, some of the other silent films Scorsese referenced, and then branch out into others. So this error does not detract from God’s work. But Scorsese is simply not correct that World War I gave people so much reality that they weren’t interested in Melies’s magic any more. First of all, his studio went bankrupt in 1913, before the war, squeezed out by bigger more factory-like studios in France and abroad. Second of all, it was the war mobilization and the post-war depression that REALLY damaged European film industries (not a shifting audience). And even those non-film damaging factors merely created a vacuum that, because they left the US relatively unscathed, Hollywood was able to fill and become dominant by decade’s end and ever since. Third, the early-1910s were also a time of great strides in the cinematic art — films began telling sophisticated stories, directors like Griffith and Sjostrom began to use editing and closeups to create great performances, Italians like Pastrone began to make lengthy super-spectacles. Melies’ short magic-stage acts simply got left in the dust. And lastly, it is simply inaccurate (and hard to see how soneone familiar with 20s movies could think it IS accurate) to suggest post-WW1 audiences had no taste left for fantasy. To see this claim in a movie that also name-checks, among others, Douglas Fairbanks, is embarrassing special pleading. Don’t misunderstand me … Melies was a pioneer and his films really do stand up today as entertainments without historical affirmative action beyond the unavoidable. But he was a pioneer who got left behind by the state of the art and his poor business skills. It’s happened many times since.

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    December 7, 2011 - Posted by | Martin Scorsese

    2 Comments »

    1. Very thoughtful, as usual. But I’m puzzled about one thing.

      You wrote: “The magpie-written script steals from everything from THE 400 BLOWS and UNDER THE ROOFS OF PARIS to GRAND ILLUSION and THE RULES OF THE GAME…”

      Well, you could say that. Or you could say it’s based on a book that steals from those things. The book, which has won quite a few honors — it was a National Book Award finalist and it won the Caldecott and on and one (http://www.theinventionofhugocabret.com/about_brian_books.htm) — is written and illustrated by Brian Selznick in a very cinematic style, so that the pictures are as prominent as the text if not more so. It reads like a storyboard. And that’s how Scorsese used it, framing many of his shots to match the book’s illustrations.

      That Scorsese chose this book to adapt for the screen shows that he felt a strong personal connection to the material, and I think the reasons that they did are obvious.

      But if you don’t like the story, I suspect your real complaint ends up at the door of Selznick, unless you think the screenwriters should have greatly embellished what they found in this beloved, award-winning novel.

      I probably sound like I’m upset with your review. I’m really not. I think you have some sharp observations here. I just think your review makes it sound like the filmmakers came up with all of this stuff on their own.

      Comment by Jeffrey Overstreet | December 7, 2011 | Reply

      • Jeff:

        I was aware that HUGO was an adaptation of a kid’s book, but I hadn’t read it (probably won’t). Is it a faithful adaptation in ways beyond the surface plot, which I know includes the basic Melies-discovery arc?

        As for my examples, I had some very specific reasons for them beyond the broadest things we can assume a film borrows from an adapted novel. The opening shot of the film reminded me of start of UNDER THE ROOFS OF PARIS; the detail of Sasha Baron Cohen’s calipers made me think of Erich Von Stroheim in GRAND ILLUSION etc. It very well be that these and other related stuff is in the Selznick work and you’re undoubtedly correct that a novel about cinephilia, separate from all considerations of specific detail, will appeal to Scorsese. Either way would still feel kinda decadent and self-pleasuring though, nezpa?

        Comment by vjmorton | December 7, 2011 | Reply


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Soiled Sinema3
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  • The Marriage of Maria Braun
    (”The 400 Blows” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    If I were to choose one film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder to recommend to a Fass-bande virgin, it would undoubtedly be The Marriage ...
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  • Moritz, Dear Moritz
    (”The 400 Blows” is briefly mentioned in this.)
      It is hard to believe now, but when I was like 10 or 11 years old, I thought that the Cameron Crowe penned teen coming-of-age sex...
    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Via Appia
    (”The 400 Blows” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    If serving a lengthy prison sentence is a ‘rite of passage’ for black gangbangers and barbarian neo-viking bikers, it woul...
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PJ Media Staff1
PJ Media



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • Nine Mysterious Items My Dog and I Found On Our Morning Runs...
    (”The 400 Blows” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lifestyle Maura begins lobbying earlier each morning. Our two-and-a-half year-old Siberian Husky does not care how much I'm enjoying Dennis Prager's Happiness is a Serious Problem. She's a dog. She does not understand that I would like to reach a good stopping point. Come on, Maura. The chapters are real short in this book. Just a minute and I'll change from pajamas to running pants.The Sun is rising; it's time for me to finish my reading-stretching multitasking and take her for our run. Who knows what we'll find today?My favorite part of each morning with Maura is the randomness. I've started letting her decide which direction we'll go, when we'll start a sprint, and which turns we'll take. When we've gone a reasonable distance (usually a little bit further each day) then I'll finally direct her to start leading us toward home. Sometimes I'll nudge her in one direction over another or hold her back from an item that really has no business going into her mouth.The surprising side effect of our routine is the phenomenon I reveal in this week's article: we keep finding interesting stuff! And every time I acquire some new book or handwritten note the unanswerable questions sprout up like toadstools. I wonder who owns these items. Did they abandon them intentionally or are they frantically looking for something they've lost? We're not likely to ever find out. And that's OK.For my original acquisition: three books that are probably alright but I doubt I'll ever read... class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2011/12/17/9-mysterious-items-my-dog-and-i-found-on-our-morning-runs/ previous Page 1 of 12 next   ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

Tim Markatos1
The American Conservative



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • The Best Films of 2015
    (”The 400 Blows” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    What, in 2015, makes a movie one of the best of the year? Does it have to entertain? Enlighten? Does it have to have a flawless screenplay, flawless acting, flawless editing—whatever that adjective even means in such a subjective context? Does it need to have an agenda, or be free of one? Is it allowed to be politically incorrect? If it puts a straight white man to sleep, is it out of the running? If it offends a person of color, does that automatically make it trash? Coming up with an annual best of list is always a tricky business. On the one hand film is, at close of day, a matter of personal preference. I'm personally neutral to superheroes and star wars; many of my friends would never even think of watching anything else. Yet as an amateur film critic, I'm never content to settle for a purely subjective view of cinema. Surely, I think to myself, there must be some objective standard against which to judge everything, so that when I unveil this list every year I can spring to the defense of my picks with more than just my opinion as artillery. If there were such a Holy Grail of criticism, every critic under the sun would arrive at the same conclusions in their year-end curations. That not being the case—for the best, honestly—I have to settle for my intuition. The movies that floated to the top of my list this year all met a basic level of filmmaking competency; so did many others not enumerated here. What I found to be the special ingredient common to my ten "bests" (+one honorable mention) was a certain "why cinema?" factor. The theater will always be the destination for the franchise blockbusters and shows of special effects derring-do, but for any other genre a theatrical release is no longer a foregone conclusion. It isn't just that more and more movies go straight to On Demand: it's that there are ever-expanding ways to tell the stories that once may have only been tellable on the big screen. Why pay upwards of $15 plus parking and popcorn to lock yourself into a room at the edge of town for some 90 to 180 minutes when you could listen to a podcast, binge watch a TV series, read a book? Why go to the movies at all when we have personally-curated newsletters and Instagram feeds and Snapstories? I don't have answers to these questions. What I do have are 11 movies that convinced me of the unique contribution of cinema to storytelling, and I hope you approach them with an open mind to consider sharing them with me. (One last note before we begin: There's a 2009 movie on this list that I included here because it had a U.S. theatrical release for the first time in 2015. For posterity, I wouldn't consider it a 2015 film at all, but for the sake of a year-in-review, I'm opting to keep it here.)
    ...
    (Review Source)

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