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Film / The Adventures of Antoine Doinel

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"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:

  • 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 the French idiom "faire les quatre cents coups", which means "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.