The Appeal of The 400 Blows
This, the first of Truffaut’s feature films, has a very interesting appeal. The story centering on Antoine Doniel is one that is very unique for various reasons. Throughout the film, Antoine receives severe consequences for his continuous bad behavior that he displays. He acts out toward all of the adult figures in his life; especially when it comes to his parents. His mother shows a constant irritability towards him every time they are in the same room together. After learning that not only his mother bore him out of wedlock, but she also would have aborted him had not his grandmother talked her out of it, Antoine developed a little attitude problem – and rightfully so.
However, this acting out is also appealing to audiences because it is often displayed in a comedic manner. Particularly, the scene where the kids leave their teacher one by one is especially memorable. The way the scene is shot gives a very unique and omniscient view of how mischievous the kids are in the film. They write obscenities on school walls, fight during recess, drink their parents’ wine and smoke their father’s cigars, gouge their classmate’s glasses, and lie about their mothers being murdered. And ironically, whenever something like this happens, the scene carries a very joyous and uplifting score underneath it, which serves to add to the film’s appeal.
The performance of the actors also enhances the story. The film does not put a great deal of emphasis on the dialogue between characters. Even though that we learn of the skeletons in the Doniel’s closet through the dialogue between the family members, the film puts more emphasis on the non-speaking actions of the characters. Antoine rarely displays any sort of raw emotion in the film except for in a few key scenes. During the scene at the amusement park ride, Antoine shows true happiness and allows the audience to see a very innocent and childlike image of him that obviously does not permeate throughout the film. All of these various devices used by the film help to both enhance the story being told and also to better appeal to audiences.