Cast & Crew
Antoine Doinel faces up, with a little effort, to the responsibilities of adulthood.
Claude De Givray
Bed and Board
Those are the basics of the Antoine Doinel cycle, but the fun of the pictures is seeing how each one resonates as a stand-alone movie whether or not you've seen the others lately. Bed and Board is a perfect example. Antoine, who earns a living as a small-time florist, is married to Christine, a violin teacher. She's pregnant with their first child, and their household budget is tight. Antoine takes a new job with an American-owned hydraulics company - not because he knows a single thing about hydraulics, but because he and the English-speaking boss totally misunderstand each other when he comes in for an interview. Instead of dying flowers in the courtyard of his apartment building, Antoine now guides small radio-controlled boats around a scale-model waterway in the suburbs. He also meets interesting people, including an alluring Japanese woman named Kyoko, who tempts him into an affair that could disrupt his happy home beyond repair. This is a story you could love if you'd never seen a French film in your life.
Bed and Board is driven more by character than by plot, but Antoine and Christine have their share of dramatic moments. The birth of their son is a happy event, even if they immediately start quibbling about what to name him. Christine's discovery of her husband's affair with Kyoko, on the other hand, is a sad and angry event. Truffaut conveys its vast significance with two of the film's most extraordinary cinematic flourishes. The first takes place when Kyoko hides poetic love notes in flowers delivered to Antoine at work; he tries to get rid of them before going home, but somehow he still has them when he arrives there, and a little later the buds open into gorgeous blossoms - in a mere instant, as if some impossible magic were at work - and drop the incriminating messages almost literally into Christine's lap. The second occurs when Antoine gets home late from a tryst with his lover and finds his grieving wife dressed in lavish Japanese regalia, confronting him with a nightmare parody of the enticement that led him astray.
This is powerful stuff, but Truffaut was among the world's most good-spirited filmmakers, and he often lightens awful situations with unexpected humor. Even though Antoine keeps seeing Kyoko after Christine finds out about her, for instance, he discovers that intercontinental love is trickier than he expected. Kyoko speaks little French, he speaks even less Japanese, and their evenings together become interminable sessions of sitting, smiling, and failing at conversation, which bores both Antoine and Kyoko out of their wits. Antoine keeps slipping away and phoning Christine for comfort! In the contest between bourgeois contentment and extramarital adventuring, routine household pleasures turn out to have a great deal going for them.
A major asset of Bed and Board is its accurate reflection of urban textures and rhythms. As in Charles Dickens's novels, the main characters are always meeting up with a colorful roster of minor figures, each of whom has a distinctive bit of business to contribute: the waitress who hits on Antoine in the courtyard; the sponger who borrows money every chance he gets; the neighbor who hasn't left his apartment in years; the busy mom who never remembers to pay for her daughter's music lessons; the man nicknamed The Strangler because he stalks around the neighborhood so ominously; the punctual opera singer and his invariably tardy wife; and more. Each is a familiar type, yet each seems bracingly fresh in the lifelike milieu Truffaut creates for them. Like many Truffaut films, Bed and Board also has a few crafty jokes for the benefit of movie buffs - including the very last shot, which pokes gentle fun at the legendary freeze-frame that gives The 400 Blows it unforgettable conclusion.
Truffaut's lifelong passion for authenticity led him to shoot most of his pictures in real locations, so it's no surprise that Bed and Board gets much of its charm from beautifully observed details. What is surprising is that the great cinematographer Nestor Almendros, who worked often with Truffaut, wasn't entirely pleased with his work here. While it's true that Bed and Board looks a tad scruffier than such visually rich Truffaut-Almendros films as The Wild Child (1970) and The Story of Adele H (1975), it more than compensates for this with energy, mobility, and improvisational dash - the very qualities that distinguish all the greatest New Wave pictures. Enchanting colors kick in right after the credits, when we see Antoine transforming pretty white flowers into dazzling scarlet ones, and delicious contrasts emerge between the gritty look of the city where Antoine lives and the looser appearance of the suburbs where he steers his little boats at work.
The 400 Blows was Truffaut's first feature, and he never expected to follow it with even one sequel, much less four of them; several times he announced the end of the series, only to find Antoine reaching out to him once more. The character went through subtle changes, though. Like the filmmaker who dreamed him up, he was always more a misfit than a rebel - that was Truffaut's description - but while The 400 Blows was a semiautobiographical tale about a guy whose personality was very similar to Truffaut's own, in subsequent chapters he felt Antoine growing more distant from him, and he probably wouldn't have continued the series even if he hadn't died in 1984 at the tragically early age of fifty-two.
Be that as it may, the five-film Antoine Doinel cycle stands with the finest achievements of French cinema, as imposing in its way as Éric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales (1963-72) and Jacques Rivette's Out One (1971) and even Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-98). And it's easily the most entertaining of the bunch - rarely has a monument of culture been so light and lively on its feet. The story of Antoine Doinel is Truffaut's most generous legacy, and Bed and Board is one of its most sparkling installments.
Director: François Truffaut
Producer: Marcel Berbert
Screenplay: François Truffaut, Claude de Givray, Bernard Revon
Cinematographer: Nestor Almendros
Film Editing: Agnès Guillemot
Music: Antoine Duhamel
Cast: Jean-Pierre Léaud (Antoine Doinel), Claude Jade (Christine Darbon Doinel), Mademoiselle Hiroko (Kyoko), Barbara Laage (Monique), Danièle Girard (Ginette), Claire Duhamel (Madame Darbon), Daniel Ceccaldi (Lucien Darbon), Daniel Boulanger (opera singer), Silvana Blasi (Silvana), Pierre Maguelon (Césarin's friend), Jacques Jouanneau (Césarin), Claude Véga (pseudo-strangler), Jacques Rispal (Monsieur Desbois), Jacques Robiolles (Jacques), Pierre Fabre (office employee), Christian de Tilliere (Baumel), Billy Kearns (Mr. Max), Annick Asty (Marianne's mother), Marianne Piketti (Marianne), Guy Pierault (TV repairman), Marie Dedieu (Marie), Marie Irakane (Madame Martin), Yvon Lec (contract worker), Menzer (little man), Christophe (Christophe).
by David Sterritt
Bed and Board
The Antoine Doinel Boxed Set
In The 400 Blows (1959), Antoine deals with the bad cards that are dealt him in the cramped, un-cozy quarters of home, the oppressive classroom, and the chilly streets of Paris in the Fifties. His father is an ineffectual spiritual heir to Jim Backus in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), while his mother has nothing but harsh words for Doinel. When dear old papa isn't smacking his face for a youthful mistake, he's overhearing dear old mama say that she originally wanted to abort him. With this home life, it's easier to understand why Doinel just wants to escape - anywhere. Early in the film, he notes that he has never seen the ocean, an observation that sets up the film's rightfully famous ending.
The 400 Blows doesn't idealize growing up in 1958 Paris, but the pursuit of freedom for the 13-year-old Antoine is at once difficult and wonderful. Paris is a wonderland of discovery for Antoine, even though he's constantly receiving the fuzzy end of the lollipop. This dichotomy between dream and nightmare is made possible by Jean-Pierre Leaud's acting, which puts him in the top five best child actors ever. Look for the tender conflict of sadness and wonder wash over his face as he soaks in the lights of the City of Lights from the back of a paddy wagon, or the range of emotions he displays in the psychological questioning scene late in the film. Joy, sadness, embarrassment, and boredom are present, sometimes all at once.
The 400 Blows (1959) made a tremendous impact on the world cinema stage as a herald of the French New Wave style, but in Truffaut's hands, the film was more than a stylistic statement. It became a bittersweet testament to his own childhood and an elegy to Truffaut's recently deceased mentor, friend, and colleague, French film critic Andre Bazin. Film professor Brian Stonehill notes in his commentary track on the DVD Truffaut's various hints and nods toward his mentor, namely in the editing of The 400 Blows. In addition to Stonehill, Truffaut's lifelong friend, Robert Lachenay, provides a commentary track that isn't as theoretical and academic, but no less useful. The 400 Blows DVD is also packed with practically 400 other pieces of supplementary material, such as audition footage of Leaud and Patrick Auffay (who plays Doinel's friend Rene), newsreel footage of Leaud in Cannes for the showing of the film, and illuminating excerpts from French television programs. All of that is just from The 400 Blows, the first DVD in the boxed set.
Jump ahead three years and Truffaut is still enjoying the worldwide success of The 400 Blows. He's approached by a producer who wants to put together a film project made up of short films from world-renowned international directors, such as Marcel Ophuls, Renzo Rossellini, Andrzej Wajda, and Shintar Ishihara, all tackling the common theme of young love. The film is L'Amour vingt ans (Love at Twenty), and Truffaut has no idea what his chapter will be, but he eventually decides to revisit Antoine Doinel and find out what the aimless chap is up to. Fortunately for us and for Truffaut, actor Jean-Pierre Leaud was still available to take part in Antoine and Colette (1962), a painful and familiar episode detailing the travails of the late adolescent Doinel trying to romantically woo an uninterested girl, Colette (Marie-France Pisier). Antoine may have had a rough childhood and enough emotional scars as anybody, but he is still a romantic by heart, an eager young man who uses his wits and boundless energy to pursue the object of his desire.
Truffaut's third chapter in the Antoine Doinel story is Stolen Kisses (1968), the second disc in the DVD set. Funnier and more episodic than the previous two chapters, Antoine is recently discharged from the army and steps into the Paris streets to continue his struggle with the realities of not knowing his natural place in the world. Truffaut and co-writers Claude de Givray and Bernard Revon give Doinel the job of a private detective, thinking that would be the most unlikely occupation a Frenchman would assume. Doinel is inept and Clouseu-like at first, but he's on the right path, until he becomes smitten with his client's wife.
The plentiful supplementary material on the Stolen Kisses (1968) disc deal mostly with an emotionally charged moment in Truffaut's career and in French film history, the so-called "Langlois Affair." The founder and director of France's famed Cinematheque francaise, Henri Langlois, was unceremoniously fired from his post just as production of Stolen Kisses (1968) began. Several interviews and footage from tumultuous demonstrations over the Langlois Affair make up the bulk of the extras on this disc. Truffaut dedicates Stolen Kisses to Langlois and the Cinematheque francaise, and begins the film with a shot of the closed doors to one of the Cinematheque theaters.
Truffaut expected Bed and Board (1970) to be the last part of the Antoine Doinel cycle. In this film, Doinel is now married to Christine (played by the lovely Claude Jade, who was introduced in Stolen Kisses) and expecting a child. But an affair with a beautiful Japanese woman threatens to end his marriage and further uproot his life. Aside from the terrific television interviews and archival footage on this disc, another highlight is famed French filmmaker Jacques Tati making a funny cameo appearance at a train station as his signature character Mr. Hulot.
Love on the Run (1979) closed out the Antoine Doinel saga as Doinel enters middle age, still looking for love. As Doinel seeks to rekindle a relationship with old flame Colette (again portrayed by Marie-France Pisier, who also co-wrote this final chapter with Truffaut), he also wonders if his established relationship with record store clerk Sanbine, played by French actress Dorothee, will truly make him happy. Truffaut intersperses new scenes in Love on the Run with scenes from the previous films, a rare and unique privilege for the filmmaker to use as powerful flashbacks that comment on the present. The flashbacks are also a treat for the viewer as we are reminded of the life Antoine Doinel "lived." It is a bittersweet ending to a remarkable film experiment.
The supplement disc les salads de l'amour is given the same title and cover as Antoine's first book seen in Love on the Run. This disc features Truffaut's 18-minute film Les Mistons (1957), a project many see as a precursor to The 400 Blows released two years later. Next is Working with Francois Truffaut: Claude de Givray and Bernard Revon, Co-Writers (2003), a 44-minute interview originally conducted in April 1986 for the documentary Arbeiten mit Francois Truffaut, produced by Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Cologne. Only a few minutes of the interview were actually used in that documentary and the remaining footage was kept in very poor conditions. The Criterion Collection gained access to the interview material and prepared a re-edited version exclusive to The Adventures of Antoine Doinel boxed set. An audio commentary on Les Mistons, an excerpt from the rare documentary Francois Truffaut (1961), and promotional art on all the features rounds out the supplemental disc.
However, there is also a supplemental booklet to compliment this embarrassment of riches. Among the highlights are an essay by Truffaut discussing the genesis of Antoine Doinel; Truffaut's letter to Jean-Pierre Leaud's father raving about his audition; titles considered for The 400 Blows; treatments, script excerpts, and work notes from the features; and finally, essays from Andrew Sarris, Noah Baumbach, Chris Fujiwara and others on each Doinel chapter.
This truly remarkable Criterion production may not give everything you need to know about the French New Wave, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Leaud, or French film history, but you will know Antoine Doinel, up close and personal.
For more information about The Adventures of Antoine Doinel Boxed Set, visit Criterion Collection. To order The Adventures of Antoine Doinel Boxed Set, go to TCM Shopping.
by Scott McGee
The Antoine Doinel Boxed Set
Virgin at twenty. I was a living anachronism, a real creep!- Christine Doinel
I don't like this business of writing about your childhood, dragging your parents through the mud. I don't know much, but one thing I do know - if you use art to settle accounts, it's no longer art.- Christine Doinel
Released in United States Fall September 1970
Released in United States August 17, 1985
Released in United States 1995
Released in United States 1999
Shown at "Truffaut Plus", Society of Lincoln Center Retrospective August 17, 1985.
Released in United States Fall September 1970
Released in United States August 17, 1985 (Shown at "Truffaut Plus", Society of Lincoln Center Retrospective August 17, 1985.)
Released in United States 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Tout Truffaut" April 23 - June 24, 1999.)
Released in United States 1995 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "Growing Up with Jean-Pierre Leaud: Nouvelle Vague's Wild Child" December 16 - January 6, 1995.)