Saturday, March 13, 2010

#185: The Adventures of Antoine Doinel

(Francois Truffaut, 1959-79)

Despite the fact that The 400 Blows is one of the most acclaimed films of all time, the casual film watcher (if you'll allow me to use the term to describe people who watch fifty-year-old French films) is most likely unaware of the series it spawned. Part of that is the due to the lower profile of the rest of the films in the series. None of them would be described as classics by a generic film critic discussing the canon, and often films like that get overlooked in the discussion of film history, or even the French New Wave.

All of this is a shame, because even if the films aren't as immediate and ambitious as the opening chapter in the series, they are all beyond worthy films, and the series as a whole represents one of the great experiments of film. Seeing the same actor grow into adulthood and struggling with love and family is a thoroughly pleasurable journey, and what Criterion has done with this collection emphasizes the unified (though improvised) journey of not only Doinel but the women around him.

Overall, Stolen Kisses was my favorite, the lightest film of the bunch, and a breeze to watch. But it's the short, Antoine and Colette, which blew my mind, with its confident but loving direction, experimental use of framing, and perfect transitional tone. Like any series, it eventually lost much of the steam that had propelled it forward, but you never stop caring about the characters, and even if Love on the Run wasn't as strong as the other films, I still would have loved to see five more films about Antoine Doinel. This is a series that shouldn't be ignored any more.

You can read my thoughts on each feature in the series here:

The 400 Blows
Stolen Kisses
Bed and Board
Love on the Run

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