Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The 400 Blows (1959)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The 400 Blows (1959, Fr.) (aka Les Quatre Cents Coups)

In critic-turned-director Francois Truffaut's, semi-autobiographical, innovative New Wave film (his feature film debut) - a character study and coming-of-age tale:

  • the opening tracking shots behind the opening title credits of views of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - purportedly the point of view of a child in the backseat of a moving automobile
  • the sad story of a rebellious and mischievous 12 year-old Parisian boy Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) in the 1950s; various juvenile delinquency crimes included petty theft, dishonesty, major disobedience and truancy; in one scene, he skipped school to play pinball with his schoolmate friend Rene (Patrick Auffay)
  • the dereliction of responsibility by his stepfather Julien Doinel (Albert Remy) and conflicted mother who regarded Antoine as a burden - they would rather turn Antoine over to the state than deal with his behavior: "We've tried everything: kindness, persuasion, punishment" - the stepfather argued
  • the scene of Antoine's desperate theft of a typewriter from his stepfather's office, but when he couldn't sell it for money and returned it, he was charged with vagrancy and theft - and jailed, and his mug-shot was taken
  • in scenes with a female psychiatrist, he explained his rationale for almost always lying: "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"; and toward the end of the film, he described the reason for his desperation and his passive-aggressive attitudes towards his mother: "I heard that my mother had me before she was married. And she had a fight with my grandmother once. And that's when I found out that she had wanted to have an abortion. It's thanks to my grandmother that I was born"; he also reacted sheepishly when asked if he had ever slept with a girl: "No, but some friends of mine have. They told me where the hookers hang out. So I went and tried to pick up some girls, but they all yelled at me so I got scared and I left"
  • the concluding, definitive and highly original, but ambiguous freeze-frame ending, one of the most famous freeze-frame shots in cinematic history; it occurred after Antoine had run off from a troubled youth reformatory during a football (soccer) game with other students, freed from restrictions, and he ran along through the woods and streets and onto an empty beach at Normandy
Freeze-Frame Ending (With Zoom-in)
  • the final image - Antoine stopped at the ocean's edge in the shallow water - a dead end of sorts; he turned, and looked tellingly at the camera as it zoomed in on his face - and then the image was unexpectedly frozen in time - he was trapped or caught between the land and sea, and between his past and future (as "FIN" appeared on-screen) - with a very uncertain future; the freeze-frame contrasted with the earlier mug-shot taken at the police station

Truancy: Playing Pinball with Schoolmate

Theft of Typewriter


Antoine's Irresponsible, Neglectful Mother and Stepfather

Antoine's Explanation for Lying and Other Confessions


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