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Following his dazzling international success with the release of Jules and Jim , Francois Truffaut was contemplating his next move when he was approached by producer Pierre Roustang who wanted his involvement in an omnibus film to be titled Love at Twenty . Truffaut was not only given free reign to direct his own episode, Antoine and Colette, but also helped Roustang select the other four directors for the project. Among them were Renzo Rossellini, Shintaro Ishihara, Andrzej Wajda and Marcel Ophuls and their contributions varied in quality and tone though Truffaut's vignette is easily the most memorable part of the film. The director later said, "For my part, the French episode gave me the occasion to realize a project I hadn't dared to launch on my own, a short sequel to my first film, The 400 Blows , in which we would meet up with the young Antoine Doinel three years later having his first sentimental adventure, one that would illustrate the moral: you risk losing everything by wanting too much." (Footnote #1)
The storyline of Antoine and Colette is deceptively simple and was largely improvised by Truffaut and his cast. When we first meet our main character, Antoine (Jean-Pierre Leaud), he works as a stock room boy in a record publishing firm in Paris and lives in a furnished room in Place Clichy. One day while attending a Berlioz music program he is instantly smitten by a beautiful young woman in the audience. He begins to notice her at other concerts he attends and eventually works up the nerve to speak to her. A friendship develops between them; they have coffee together, exchange favorite books and records, but all the while Antoine is harboring a secret love for Colette. Antoine's infatuation spurs him to relocate to an apartment directly across the street from Colette's home where he can more carefully monitor her activities. Even though he befriends her parents and insinuates himself into their household as if he were a member of the family, his possessiveness towards Colette ends up driving her away from him. In the final scene, a gentleman caller arrives to take Colette to the cinema, leaving Antoine to watch television with Colette's parents.
One could say that Antoine and Colette was largely autobiographical in some respects. When Truffaut was seventeen years old, he fell in love with a girl named Liliana Litvin that he met at the Cinematheque francaise. He was so taken with Liliana that he left the suburbs where he worked and moved to Paris so he could be closer with her. Liliana, on the other hand, had an active social life and enjoyed the companionship of several admirers (among them were Truffaut's friends, Jean-Luc Godard and Jean Gruault), all of them competing for her attention. Truffaut became so enamored of Liliana that he moved into a hotel room directly across the street from her apartment. Nothing ever came of the relationship and Truffaut, after a failed suicide attempt, joined the army to forget her and ended up deserting after a few months, a decision that cost him time in the military prison at Coblenz. Truffaut drew upon these personal experiences as background for his alter-ego, Antoine, in both Antoine and Colette and Stolen Kisses .
Truffaut was always highly critical of his own work but admitted that he had a fondness for Antoine and Colette. Film Comment editor-at-large Kent Jones wrote, that "the half-hour Antoine and Colette is among the most beautiful things Truffaut ever committed to film. There is something bracing about its swiftness alone, and about the way Truffaut slices confidently through his material, both expository (Antoine's modest living situation, his job, his determination to land Colette) and emotional (a love of Paris, a deep attachment to music, and a burning desire for women, all three traits shared by the director and his alter ego)...He also shifts Antoine and Colette's cultural meeting ground from the cinematheque to the concert hall, the first of many replacements Truffaut would find for his chosen art form: literature in many films, theatre in The Last Metro , pedagogy in The Wild Child , the dead in The Green Room ...." (Footnote #2)
Reflecting back on Antoine and Colette, Truffaut said, "I did it in a carefree moment: Jules and Jim had just come out and had been very well received, which was why I went to work on Love at Twenty in a really cheerful mood." He added, however, that "when Love at Twenty was finished, we realized that it was a melancholy film, sometimes even desperate, and was so without our having sought it, simply because love at twenty is something sad in the way it's out of sync with the adult style of life." (Footnote #3)
Producer: Pierre Roustang
Director: Francois Truffaut
Screenplay: Francois Truffaut
Cinematography: Raoul Coutard
Film Editing: Claudine Bouche
Music: Georges Delerue
Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud (Antonie Doinel), Marie-France Pisier (Colette), Patrick Auffay (Rene), Rosy Varte (Colette's mother), Jean-Francois Adam (Albert Tazzi).
by Jeff Stafford
#1.Truffaut by Truffaut
#2. "The Adventures of Antoine Doinel" film booklet, The Criterion Collection, essay on Antoine and Colette by Kent Jones
#3. Truffaut by Truffaut
Francois Truffaut by Annette Insdorf