Wednesday, March 10, 2010

#186: Stolen Kisses

(Francois Truffaut, 1968)

The funny thing about Stolen Kisses is not that this third installment in the Antoine Doinel series (and second full-length since The 400 Blows) is as light and enjoyable as a perfectly made eclair. It's that the film's tone is exactly the opposite of The 400 Blows, and yet feels like the natural follow-up anyway. For if childhood is viewed as a deeply emotional journey towards freedom from the hand you were dealt, the supremely awkward moments of youth that straddle adolescence and adulthood must inevitably be farce.

Stolen Kisses isn't uproariously funny - and it isn't reality heightened to an unrealistic level - but it's life as you experience it in those moments when you are struggling to find your identity. It's funny, for sure, but only in the way that the choices you seem to make for yourself don't end up being the ones that matter after all.

Like The 400 Blows, I can't immediately identify with Doinel's life path. I didn't jump from job to job, I know how to tail someone, and I certainly never had the boss's hot older wife propose a sexual encounter. Yet I felt an emotional connection with the character here that I didn't feel in that earlier, much more highly regarded film. Part of that was the brilliant short that came in between the two features, Antoine and Colette (which I recommend to everyone and can be viewed here). But I think there is also something to be said for an emerging maturity and confidence in Truffaut's filmmaking. The 400 Blows was a bit of a "fuck you" to Truffaut's detractors, but unlike Godard, who became ever more defiant, Truffaut found what he wanted to do with his life when he began to make movies. He began to search for truth within the medium, whereas Godard became sick of the language of film and desperate to break it out of its mold. A movie like Day for Night, balanced in particular against a movie like Tout Va Bien, is a perfect example of this. Truffaut found truth in cinema. He believes in the art form's ability to express this truth. I think that faith is all over Stolen Kisses, just as it was ever-present in what I consider to be Truffaut's masterpiece, the beautiful and melancholy Jules and Jim. It allows you to fall deeply in love with Doinel, to give yourself over to him.

I'm extremely excited to watch the final two films in this series.

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