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April 20th

Les 400 coups, the first film in the new wave

A famous traveling shot in the history of cinema

The 400 shots, François Truffaut's first film is without question possible the most important film of the New Wave with A bout de souffle by Jean-Luc Godard. It is also the first film of Jean-Pierre Léaud (see also his essay for the film below), 14 years old at the time, who plays the role of Antoine Doinel, whom he will represent on four other occasions under the direction of his mentor. Antoine Doinel is obviously François Truffaut. In Les 400 Coups, he tells about his difficult childhood, his tumultuous relations with his divorced parents and his petty theft which will send him to a center for juvenile delinquents. The film takes place mainly in Paris. But the center for juvenile delinquents is in the provinces and occupies the last sequences of the film. The shooting will take place at the Moulin d'Andé in the Eure region, where François Truffaut will return for Jules and Jim. But it is in Villers-sur-Mer, on the beach at the foot of the Vaches Noires cliffs that the famous final scene of the film takes place that all moviegoers around the world have in mind. This scene is shot a few days before Christmas 1958 in complete anonymity. In the film, Jean-Pierre Léaud takes advantage of a football match to escape from the center for delinquents and runs towards the sea. The tracking shot starts in the countryside, then the kid arrives on the beach, goes down a staircase and runs towards the sea, puts its feet in the water, turns around and looks at the camera which freezes on the word End. It is a masterstroke for the director who signs a major film on adolescence. It is presented in Cannes in competition in May 1959 where it arouses enthusiasm and receives the price of the direction. 

From a country road to the beach

A cheeky guy: young Léaud's test for the 400 strokes

The film in detail

Realization: François Truffaut. His assistant is Philippe de Broca, future director of "The Man from Rio".
Scenario: François Truffaut.
Dialogues: Marcel Moussy
Photographer: Henri Decae.
Music: Jean Constantin.
Production company: the Carrosse films that François Truffaut founded with the money of his in-laws. But his parents will get angry with him, at the end of the film, believing they are caricatured.
The film was released in theaters on June 3, 1959 and in a few days had 450 spectators.
In the main roles: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Remy ... We see in the film the friends of François Truffaut doing the extras. Among them: Jean-Claude Brialy, Jeanne Moreau and François Truffaut himself a fervent admirer of Alfred Hitchcock. We also hear the voices of Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Paul Belmondo.