Sunday, December 20, 2015

The 400 Blows (Les quatres cents coups) (1959)

Today’s film is Les quatres cents coups (The 400 Blows).  The title actually comes from a French saying meaning “to raise hell” so it doesn’t really have anything to do with “blows”.  The film feels very modern and relevant, and I think a lot of people can relate to it.
Even though this film was set in current times, for us it’s the past and provides us a unique window to see what everyday life was like.  I don’t know what school was like in the 18thcentury, but I know what it was like in the 1950s because I am watching it right now.   It is amazing how it is exactly like school in the 1990s.  Except for now, in our modern age, playing hooky feels a little different.

One of the students is Doinel, who is not a villain, but always seen as a troublemaker by his harsh teacher and his parents.   He has trouble paying attention.  He might have ADD or he might not be challenged enough and is bored.  I have Autism and was always at odds with school personnel.  Then when someone explained my condition, they automatically feel sorry for me.  School can be overwhelming and boring at the same time.  But people like us are always dismissed as troublemakers.
Then comes Doinel’s mom, who is the source of all his problems.  He knows that she never even wanted him to begin with, and he can thank his grandmother for convincing her to keep him.  That must weigh heavily on him.  He catches her with another man, but cannot tell his stepfather because it would reveal that he was skipping school that day. 

Wanting to tell your dad that your mom is cheating on him, but it
would reveal you were playing hooky.

Later, he is caught trying to return a stolen typewriter and sent to juvie.  He sees the ocean and makes a break for it.  As he runs toward the freedom of the beach, the film freezes over his face.  But his story is far from over.  Just you wait, Doinel.  Soon you will have kids of your own and your mom will reappear out of nowhere.  Nowhere!! Because she wants to "play Grandma" and she will have the audacity to tell you how to raise your children even though she knows fuckall about children in general.  Man, this movie is so realistic that it's painful.  I give it a 10/10 this movie excels on all levels.

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