Film / The Adventures of Antoine Doinel

"Oh, I lie now and then, I suppose. Sometimes I'd tell them the truth and they still wouldn't believe me, so I prefer to lie."
Antoine Doinel, The 400 Blows

The Adventures of Antoine Doinel are five films directed by François Truffaut which star the same character, the romantic but perpetually naive Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), from adolescence to his mid-thirties.

The 400 Blows, by far the most famous film in the series, portrays Antoine Doinel as twelve-year-old boy. It's a cruel, melancholy portrait of the private sorrows of adolescence and one of the most deeply personal films ever made. The final scene, after his escape from a juvenile work camp, features one of the most famous shots in the history of French cinema: Antoine, on a desolate beach, finally free, and seeing the ocean for the very first time, but in profound spiritual pain and completely and utterly alone.

The rest of them ... well, imagine if American Beauty had a sequel featuring Thora Birch and Mena Suvari as Manhattan fashionistas vying for the affection of Matthew McConaughey. Despite the whiplash, all of them (except maybe Love on the Run) are considered worthy successors, and Stolen Kisses is considered nearly on par with The 400 Blows. In order, the films are:

  • The 400 Blows (1959): This film introduces Antoine, a Parisian bastard child with a cold, adulterous mother and an argumentative stepfather. The film follows him as, after a series of injustices, he becomes a juvenille deliquent and his family abandons him. The title comes from the French slang term "faire les quatre cents coups" which means something like "raising hell" or "living a wild life." Considerably Darker and Edgier than the next four films. It snagged Truffaut the Best Director award at Cannes at the tender age of 27. It's often considered one of the greatest films ever made.

  • Antoine and Colette (1962): A short film Truffaut made for the Love at Twenty anthology, which is about... well. This marks the saga's turn from drama to light romantic comedy.

  • Stolen Kisses (1968): Antoine has just been discharged from the army for "instability of personality" and immediately sets to chasing after his sweetheart, Christine Darbon. Now that he's out of the army, however, he's got to get a job, and decides to become the world's worst private eye. Despite its massive departure from the tone of The 400 Blows, it's often considered one of Truffaut's best films. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

  • Bed and Board (1970): Antoine, now married to Christine and failing with slightly less consistency at his attempts to hold down a job, falls for a Nice Girl called Kyoko. Hilarity Ensues.

  • Love on the Run (1979): Antoine is now in his thirties. At the beginning of the film, he has finalized his divorce from Christine, published a successful novel, and seen the reappearance of an old friend, all of which prompt him to reflect back on his life. Still a light, fluffy romance, but a little more sober than the previous films. Truffaut made this as a definitive end to Antoine's adventures.

These movies contain examples of:

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Particularly cruel version from The 400 Blows: Once Antoine's parents learn that he's been skipping school, they decide to punish him in the most humiliating way imaginable to a preteen boy—by going down to school, storming into his classroom, slapping him in front of all his classmates, and letting him (and everyone else in the room) know, in no uncertain terms, that there's more to come once he gets home. They then leave him to stew in terror and suspense for the rest of the school day.
  • Author Avatar: Little Antoine's story was based off Truffaut's childhood experiences, but Antoine's adulthood is fictional. In-universe, Antoine writes a novel which is very close to a word-for-word autobiography.
  • Bittersweet Ending: By the end of the first film, sweet-natured Antoine is considered a worthless delinquent. His own mother washes her hands of him and requests that after a stint in juvenille detention he be sent to a work camp by the shore where she doesn't have to deal with him anymore. But at least he gets to see the ocean - in one of French cinema's most famous and beautiful scenes.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Inverted. After The 400 Blows, the next films are considerably Lighter and Softer. Can lead to Mood Whiplash, since the general idea is still the same: the whole world misunderstands Antoine and he fails at everything he tries, except now it's Played for Laughs.
  • Cloudcuckoolander
  • Covers Always Lie: What the heck does "Angel Faces hell bent for violence" mean? See also the Italian poster, which wants you to think it's a sexy romance which doesn't involve that boy in the far left background at all.
  • Crapsack World: Particularly The 400 Blows.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Much of what happens to Antoine in The 400 Blows. He's a good-hearted, intelligent, sensitive young man, but prone to mischief and hasn't quite figured out the status quo. But the Disproportionate Retribution escalates until by the end of the film, everyone in his life has written him off as an incurable delinquent.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Antoine towards EVERYBODY. Sometimes to a slightly offputting extent.
  • Downer Ending: Antone and Colette ends with Antoine decisively rejected by his crush Colette, who is dating an older man.
  • The Fool: Antoine is somewhere between this and Butt-Monkey.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: One of if not the most famous example of the trope in The 400 Blows. As young Antoine finally reaches the coast from his perpetual series of bad luck and federal injustice. He's still being chased, and has nowhere to go beyond the coast, but is enjoying the beach and an innocent sense of freedom, causing him to smile back towards the land and, consequently, into the camera. The camera then freezes and zooms on his face.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipe: Antoine and Colette uses a peculiar wipe in which the screen shrinks to a smaller rectangle centering on one part of the image, like Antoine's face. Then the rectangle disappears, then the process reverses itself, showing us the next scene.
  • Last Girl Wins: Sabine, ultimately, in Love on the Run.
  • Le Film Artistique
  • Limited Wardrobe: Justified. Poor as he was, Antoine wears the same checkered jacket throughout The 400 Blows.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Fabienne Tabard.
  • Mythology Gag: In Antoine and Colette, Antoine has a painted picture in his room of the second-most-famous shot in The 400 Blows: the scene in the prison cell, where he pulls his turtleneck over his nose.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Christine and Liliane.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Kyoko. Justified since this is only because we see her through Antoine's eyes, and Antoine wants to see her as an exotic ideal. He gets tired of her once he realizes she's an actual person.
  • Shout-Out: Too many to count, especially in Love on the Run. Mostly to Truffaut's other films and to actors that he worked with.
  • Stalker with a Crush: One of these shows up kind of inexplicably in Stolen Kisses. Often, Antoine when the Dogged Nice Guy thing gets a little out of hand.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: And something of a Manchild. Kind of odd considering that Antoine wasn't sheltered from much - he was sent off to reform school, his parents disowned him, and he was in the army. Still, Antoine's moe appeal is the key to the series' charm: it's sort of hard to dislike him for messing up so consistently and chasing after everything in a skirt, since he's just too innocent to realize that he's doing anything wrong.
  • Word Salad Title: Subverted, the title of The 400 Blows is a reference to a French idiom meaning "to raise hell." In other countries it often comes across as this trope. The original translator tried to give the film the name Wild Oats in an attempt to avert this, but the distributor changed it back.

Alternative Title(s): The Four Hundred Blows, The 400 Blows