The 400 Blows: An Interesting Child

From my teacher’s movie bin to my Xbox, I watched as this very, interesting film ran for a long hour and forty minutes.

“The 400 Blows” is a film released in 1959, and is directed by François Truffaut and stars  Jean‑Pierre Léaud. The story is set in the late fifties in Paris, France and follows a young middle school aged kid who lies constantly, steals money from family members, and a long list of other minor crimes. Eventually, the boy’s actions escalate to where the boy just keeps making bad decisions.

So, I didn’t love this film, but, I did like it. The problems I have with it was the pacing and story structure, but, then again, I am keeping it up to modern day standards(which I think is fair). The pacing made what could have been a more intriguing coming of age story into one that was a slow moving play by play of this boy’s story.

Since my gripes about this film would be negative and uninteresting, I instead want to focus on what this film was actually about, it’s story. The child, Antoine, lies, steals, plagiarizes, smokes, drinks – generally a lot of shit that kids shouldn’t be doing. But, while the film generally follows this kid entirely, the more interesting points in the film occurs when any adult interacts with the Antoine and dealing with his dishonesty and criminal actions. Say, for instance, the dad. The dad who at the beginning of the film treated Antoine like a real son, goes on to treat his son like a bad kid because that’s what he’s becoming. And the mother, goes from making Antoine run errands and do chores, to (minor spoiler) like a special kid that she sees herself in because of him catching her cheating. Then, the teacher, who really lays aggressively into Antoine the whole movie.

These adults all make choices that directly effect Antoine and his behavior. While the boy does do all these poor actions, it’s the way the adults punish him that pushes him further and further towards a life of crime. The dad hits him for lying, the mom pampers him for not telling her secret, the teacher pours an immense pressure on his schooling and shunning him for his poetry, which is my next point. This boy has creativity inside him: he writes poetry, he reads Balzac, and he loves going to the movies. If the adults actually had looked at the child and talked to him about what he’s done, they could have had realized that he isn’t normal, and is more artistic than he is dangerous. Instead, they jump directly to what punishment he should face. There’s something there for Antoine, but none of the adults see it, they just see a criminal, and it’s ultimately the road he goes down because the punishments were either being hit(which is terrible) or didn’t happen because Antoine would evade them. They just put him in a correctional facility for stealing and running away, and it looks like no one wants to get him out, not even his parents.

I thought that this message was the saving grace of this film. I think it’s an important lesson for any parent: talk to your child. Try to understand why your kid did something wrong, and see what you can do to put your child on the right track. I think people could be better parents if they’re told this early on in their parenthood.

Thank you so much for reading, if you liked it, like the post, follow me, share, but only if you want, I would appreciate it!

Have a good week!

-Jake Enemark

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