The 400 Blows (1959)

Real Fiction

With this film began an experiment that was to ultimately fail after dozens of notable films. It was much like the experiment in art nouveau in architecture seventy years earlier. I suppose that every art has cycles which begin with a collapse of the passion in artifice and a resulting call to the spontaneously natural.

In this case, we have a camera acting as a self-aware human voyeur. There is no story: we simply enter and leave one life at arbitrary points. There is no drama, instead the ‘natural’ drama of life. There are in fact none of the theatrics traditionally used to exaggerate so that things convey as real. The philosophy here is that REAL is real.

Seeing this film again after my first viewing 35 years ago shocks me at the naivete of both Truffaut and myself then. I still celebrate nature, but I no longer believe it can be found in a zoo, where someone like Truffault can walk me through, pointing out what he thinks is interesting.

Film, I believe, is something new still. Something that is beginning to change the way we conceptualise the most basic elements of life. Our bodies have stopped evolving, and that evolution has shifted to the level of tropes — some in visual grammar — that act selfishly to embed and promote themselves. Part of their defence is to periodically prompt us to believe that film is a mere window to reality. But that notion always collapses.

This film is important because one can trace that collapse of induced naivete from its beginning here to an end. A complete cycle, whose final end I might place in Malick’s ‘Thin Red Line’. (‘Moulin Rouge’ likely begins a cycle on the other side.)

Posted in 2002

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *