Tuesday, November 19, 2013

400 Blows (Revised)



What was The French New Wave, you ask? Well, imagine an uprising of new generations of filmmakers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, eager to break free of the typical Italian cinema. Under the rule of Mussolini, the industry stuck to producing "White-telephone films", which focused only on the lives and issues of the upper class. These melodramas felt very artificial and on the surface, which is what sparked a passion for these young filmmakers to start a new realism. Most of the new generations were revolting against their elders in the industry, who believed in French Cinema of Quality. This was a very standardized and precise method of filmmaking, which the directors of the movement hoped to defy and change. Fran├žois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows was a very influential part of this movement, including very distinct aesthetics and narrative styles of the New Wave. This film was an autobiographical story about Antoine, a troublemaking child who runs away, roaming the rundown streets of Paris.

Sloppy? Careless? Ugly? This is how critics of the time saw the cinematography of Trauffaut, and many other New Wave directors. In opposition to studio filmmaking, The 400 Blows was shot directly on the streets of Paris. Along with many New Wave films, Trauffaut chose to use a moving handheld camera in many of his shots. Tracking and panning shots were very prominent in The 400 Blows, especially noticeable at the end when the camera tracks along with Antoine running from the cops. These choices were made possible by the lighter and more portable cameras and equipment invented at the time.

One of the major distinctions of The 400 Blows as a New wave film was its casual look, especially when compared to the Cinema of Quality films. Many of Traffaut's scenes captured the new gritty quality of the movement, such as the cramped apartment and grimy streets of Paris. As sloppy as this seemed to the Cinema of Quality filmmakers, it was an intentional aesthetic choice to give that sense of realism.


The New Wave films had a narrative style of their own, where Neorealist experimentation was taken to a whole new level. It was very common for there to be many details in the film that had nothing to do with its narrative at all. Also, forget about a protagonist with a main goal! Psh, the main characters hardly ever seemed to know what they were doing. Antoine spent the entire story randomly acting out in rebellion, such as playing hooky from school or shoplifting.  Sounds like someone who the audience would root for... This was a very typical kind of hero in New Wave films, one who simply drifted along in spur of the moment actions with no particular wants or goals. Not only does the story seem to be discontinuous, but it literally ends with no closure or resolution at all. At the end of The 400 Blows, the camera follows Antoine running away from the cops until he reaches the sea. At that moment, there is no where else to run obviously. The camera then zooms in on him and freezes as he walks forward, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats but with no answer to what will happen next. This ambiguous ending appeared in almost all of the New Wave films, giving the message that life is confusing and unpredictable. That sometimes, we just don't know what's going to happen. 


Friday, November 15, 2013

The 400 Blows



The French New Wave was an uprising of new generations of filmmakers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The point of this movement was to break free of the typical Italian cinema, which under Mussolini was full of "White-telephone films" focusing mainly on upper class issues. Most of the new generations were revolting against their elders in the industry, who had very particular rules and methods to filmmaking. Fran├žois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows was a very influential part of this movement, including similar aesthetics and narrative style as other New Wave directors. This film was a very autobiographical story about a troublemaking child who runs away, roaming the rundown streets of Paris.

Tracking shots and location filming were very prominent in this film, which was partly due to the new portable cameras that were invented at the time. There were many long tracking shots, especially noticeable at the end when the camera tracks along with the boy running from the cops. In opposition to studio filmmaking, Traufatt, along with many other New wave directors shot directly on location. In the 400 Blows, many of the scenes captured the new casual and gritty quality of the movement. For example, the cramped apartment and grimy streets of Paris portray the realism of the lower class at that time.