Film review: François Truffaut's The 400 Blows

The 400 Blows is widely considered to be one of the best films ever made

The 400 Blows is widely considered to be one of the best films ever made - Credit: André Dino / A BFI DISTRIBUTION RELEASE

Few films are more deserving of an ultra-high definition restoration than The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups). François Truffaut’s 1959 debut is after all a defining work of the French New Wave and widely regarded as one of the best movies ever made. And by giving it a 4K polish, the director’s genius is even more apparent. 

Inspired by Truffaut’s own early life, The 400 Blows focuses on the grim plight of Antoine Doinel (Léaud), a young boy who lives with his self-absorbed parents (Rémy, Maurier) in a dirty apartment in Paris. Neglected at home and tormented by a sadistic teacher at school, he decides to run away and turns to petty crime to survive. Soon, he’s at the mercy of the brutal local police force. 

The 400 Blows was inspired by Truffaut's own early life

The film was inspired by Truffaut's own early life - Credit: André Dino / A BFI DISTRIBUTION RELEASE

As heartbreaking a coming-of-age tale as has ever been created, The 400 Blows effectively highlights Antoine’s predicament by showing glimpses of what his childhood could be, whether it’s a rare trip to the cinema with his parents or the faces of happy kids watching a puppet show. 

Léaud is perfectly cast as Antoine, the actor radiating both innocence and a weariness that comes with being dealt a bad hand in life. And then there’s the cinematography – the biggest beneficiary of the 4K restoration. Classic moments – from a gym teacher leading his mischievous pupils through the streets of Paris to the climactic scene where Antoine runs along the beach – look better than ever making this release an opportunity to revisit a masterpiece on the big screen that should not be missed.

Rating: 5 stars

Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, Claire Maurier
Directed by: François Truffaut
Running time: 99 minutes
Certificate: PG
Release date: In cinemas from 7 January