…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Francois Truffaut

HMWYBS: Reactions to Adele H.


I’m only writing on this space for Nathaniel R.’s Best Shot series (we’re still waiting on Possessed :S) because my water birth-like paragraphs about the shots from Francois Truffaut‘s The Story of Adele H. that interest me are too long for tumblr. Truffaut thought that Adele’s story as fitting to tell in a 95 minute feature. However she is only and arguably unjustly seen as a footnote in her father Victor Hugo’s life and only having a stub page in Wikipedia. Anyway….

Third runner-up, because of what iMDb’s mothboy88 thinks:

When Adele (Isabelle Adjani) writes “Victor Hugo” in the dust on the mirror, and then wipes it off, it’s almost exactly the same as when Hanzo writes “Bill” on the window, and The Bride wipes it off with her sleeve.

Although I can’t remember which Kill Bill he or she is talking about. Part 1?

Second runner-up: I’m probably not the only Canadian who reads Nathaniel but I’m probably the loudest. If I was patriotic I’d dedicate this whole post to Canadian representations in this movie, since it’s mostly set in Halifax. I was also a bit irritated at how half of the characters didn’t know who Hugo was, or that this movie made Halifax look like a city for less than the 50,000 of its population during the film’s time period of 1863. Or that it wasn’t filmed in that city until iMDB’s pbellema reminded me that Old Halifax blew up in World War I, the same war that put the news of her death in the fringes. I also realized that beginning the story with a map reminds me of Casablanca but this movie is obviously more depressing.

Runner up: Because it’s my space I would like to talk about my broken heart. And fittingly, downward spirals are one of Truffaut’s favourite arcs. There are many instances where I withdraw my investment on such stories from him and other directors, as much as I appreciate the execution and the acting in those movies’ final moments. Regardless of what I think about these kind of movies, my tendencies to over-read images sees this shot as a heterosexual masculine aversion from ‘ridiculous’ women, or the world, gender dominated or otherwise, rejecting her. It’s also a majestic moment in an otherwise intimate movie, although it makes me feel like an asshole that my runner-up shot shows Adjani’s back instead of her beautiful face.

Best: If the earlier shot shows the movie’s world, this shot explains its format. This is not your average epistolary movie, as she recites her letters instead of being heard through voice-overs. What captivated me visually is how it’s dark and grimy like a Delacroix painting (this movie loves the colour brown). The scene where this shot belongs to also puts many things into context, how she has to cut paper from a roll like she would for bread. How she would talk about how her father owes her money which, even to me who belongs to the ‘entitled generation’ sounds unthinkable. How her beloved Albert’s position would be jeopardized and how single-minded love like hers might and should have only existed in her lifetime.


Les Mistons


TV airings/film screenings of The 400 Blows are often preceded or followed by director Francois Truffaut‘s short film “Les Mistons,” where a group of mid-20th century rural French boys spy on a young woman, Bernadette (Bernadette Lafont), then her boyfriend Gerard (Gerard Blain) gets into the picture and spy some more.

For some reason, I never got the feeling that the kids really wanted to replace Gerard, as if Bernadette’s more interesting because she has a boyfriend and they start feeling guilty about their voyeurism when she loses him to the Algerian War. I’m more interested in the Algerians that Gerard might have electrocuted, but then there’s already a movie about that and I’m a bitch.


The 400 Blows


I saw The 400 Blows for the second time without subtitles which was brutal, except that I paid more attention to things like Jean-Pierre Leaud‘s acting tics as he plays Antoine Doinel. He quickly looks away while he’s talking to his mother, scornfully dismissing her. He’s not necessarily that cruel, telling her about his problems at school, a normal frustration for a child that she understands. Or when he’s being interviewed by one of the officials in the youth camp where he’s sent, talking about abortions and prostitutes with frankness or the occasional impish grin. Leaud’s Antoine seems more experienced in life than his character in Masculin Feminin. Director Francois Truffaut is lucky to have found him.

Or the camera work, like when a line of schoolboys get shorter and how half of the adults in the area are so complacent about this as well as towards Antoine’s antics. If only we were schoolboys in Paris too. Antoine’s predicament is unfair since everyone does what he gets repeatedly punished for. Kids should never be treated this barbaric – there’s a racially ambiguous child in this film being fed toothpaste – but how do adults act when a child does bad things again and again?

Or Antoine and his best friend’s costumes. The best friend wears a suit and tie while Antoine wears flannel. The rich one has the ideas and the poor one does the work, thinking their plans are foolproof. I can marvel at the film’s shot compositions while the ghetto side of me comes out and thinks ‘punk ass stillin’ a typewriter, yo!’ I used to meet older Antoines and hear their stories about starting theft under $5000 in middle school. It’s a relief that my generation isn’t the only one who are guilty. I also get angry when he’s being treated badly, but the music calms me, toning my range down to defenseless pity. Melodrama wouldn’t suit a film about Antoine – in spite of oppression he never cries, and he totally can pull that card since he’s young enough. Whether it’s the occasional home troubles, mixed in with happy moments or the downward spiral of the film’s last 25 minutes, the film doesn’t allow for those kind of heightened emotions.

This film is also why you shouldn’t go to theory-based film classes. The first text I got writes something about how Antoine’s final close-up is unsettling, which thanks for the spoiler – and yes, I’m a hypocrite. The ending doesn’t close the plot, but I don’t necessarily see that as unsettling as opposed to showing him as a representative to a generation. Truffaut  made sequels for the film, but for now Antoine’s future comes to a stand still.