Cast & Crew
Twenty years after the making of "400 Blows" Francois Truffaut looks back at the life of Antoine Doinel by taking a glance at his presentday situation and all his grownup problems. His character's adulthood is realized in this commentary on the fragility of romantic love. In this concluding chapter, Antoine and Christine have separated, and he is seeing a new woman, until Colette enters his life, and encourages him to write a novel.
Love on the Run (1979) - Love On the Run (1979)
In interviews and letters, Truffaut said he never was completely satisfied with the film, which quite apart from its obvious parallels to him (and, he insisted, Leaud as well) does not bathe him in a flattering light. That he was motivated by his unresolved feelings for his own mother, and, although no great fan of psychoanalysis, knew it, provides the film with one of its most touching scenes when Doinel meets his late mother's lover (Julien Bertheau), who exists only peripherally in The 400 Blows, lunches with him, and posthumously reconciles with his mother a bit after hearing the old man describe the woman young Doinel had resented and regarded as emotionally unavailable to him as "a bird" and "an anarchist."
Truffaut also later wrote he felt bad about handing Leaud a poison pill of a role here. Not that the film altogether stemmed from autobiographical compulsion. Truffaut's previous film, The Green Room (1978) was a flop. He needed a success, and figured Doinel's reappearance would pre-sell the film. He was right. It was a hit, buttressing his company's shaky finances. Nonetheless, it mostly got a critical shellacking, not so much because it was so self-referential, but because Truffaut, in the eyes of many, did not create enough of a film there. Actually, it reprises female characters not just from the Doinel films, but from other Truffaut productions - most notably, Marie-France Pisier (who co-wrote the script), Claude Jade, and the single-name actresses Dani and Dorothee, who find the intensity of Doinel's wooing an aphrodisiac.
The difference is that the women see beyond it, and Doinel can't. He's in love, but doesn't know where to go with it once he gets it, so takes his emotions and runs - to the next woman, with whom he repeats the same scenario of hot pursuit followed by a depressing cooling-off period. As Love on the Run opens, he is putting the finishing touches on his divorce from Jade's violinist wife, Christine. The great love of his teenage life, Pisier's Chloe, now a judge, meets up with him after he drops his young son off at a train for summer camp, spots her aboard a different train pulling out, hops it impetuously, and turns on the heat. She's tempted, but laughs at him, brandishing his second book, Les Salades de l'Amour, pointing out that it's centered solely on him.
"You write well," she tells him, not unkindly, "but you won't be a real writer until you write something that's all fiction." All the women in his life have his number. Says Jade's Christine, who was nicer to him than Chloe: "Writing to settle old scores is not art." The literary criticism is augmented by Dani's Liliane, a violin student of Christine's, who declares, "He wants everyone to make up for his unhappy childhood," casting, she adds, every woman he meets as wife, wet nurse and kid sister. Were it not for Dorothee's Sabine, a sprightly clerk in a record shop, the film would spend all its time looking in a rear-view mirror, raking through the rubble of Doinel's failed relationships. Thanks to her sunny disposition, and ability to not let Doinel's prickly, tense, frantic ways get to her too much, he has a chance to create fresh rubble, and is well on his way to doing just that.
Truffaut was 46 when he filmed Love on the Run. Six years later, he died after making three more films - The Last Metro (1980), The Woman Next Door (1981) and Confidentially Yours (1983). Health problems sapped him during the last few years of his life. Where, he must have wondered, would he - much less Doinel - have been able to go? Realizing that Doinel was essentially spinning his wheels, and running out of time, Truffaut compensated by picking up the pace to silent comedy momentum. To Alain Souchon, the popular singer who wrote and sings the film's title song, he wrote: "Doinel is always on the run, always late, always a man in a hurry; the notion of flight is to be understood in every possible sense: time flying, always being projected into the future, always anxious (never content!), never calm, and also love flying out the window. . . also flight in movement; however much you try to flee from your problems they're always right behind you, pursuing you, etc." Love on the Run, dashing helter-skelter around Paris alongside Doinel, is also in large part a summing-up film. It draws extensively on clips from the previous four Doinel films, not just reprising them, but sometimes recontextualizing them and including material not in the originals. It also contains clips from Truffaut's film about filmmaking, Day for Night (1973). The latter is the source for the same speech Liliane delivers about her breakup with Leaud's character in both films. Truffaut hasn't entirely succeeded in solving the problem, as he put it, of "building a film with pieces that already exist."
And although he doesn't quote The Green Room, that film's theme of memory kept alive, shaping the present, is a strong element, too, especially when Truffaut slices and dices time to give us different versions of the same action (Doinel's finding a ripped-up photo of a girl in a phone booth, for instance, and putting alternative spins on it). In The Green Room, memory fills the life of the protagonist played by Truffaut. Not so different in substance from Love on the Run being filled with flashbacks of the earlier Doinel films. It's flawed, but Doinel's intoxication with what he thinks is love in the earlier films is replaced here by the joy of story-weaving delighting in itself. In the end, Love on the Run is kept watchable by the sprightliness of its scissors-and-paste portrait of a scissors-and-paste life.
Producer: Francois Truffaut
Director: Francois Truffaut
Screenplay: Francois Truffaut, Marie-France Pisier, Jean Aurel, Suzanne Schiffman (scenario)
Cinematography: Nestor Almendros
Music: Georges Delerue
Film Editing: Martine Barraque
Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud (Antoine Doinel), Marie-France Pisier (Colette Tazzi), Claude Jade (Christine Doinel), Dani (Liliane), Dorothee (Sabine Barnerias), Daniel Mesguich (Xavier Barnerias), Julien Bertheau (Monsieur Lucien), Jean-Pierre Ducos (L'avocat de Christine), Marie Henriau (La juge du divorce), Rosy Varte (La mere de Colette).
BW and C-96m. Letterboxed.
by Jay Carr
Truffaut: A Biography, by Antoine de Beacque and Serge Toubiana, Knopf, 1999
Francois Truffaut, by Annette UInsdirf, Touchstone, 1989
Francois Truffaut - Correspondence: 1945-1984, edited by Gilled Jacob and Claude de Givray, Noonday Press, 1990
Finally Truffaut, by Don Allen, Beaufort, 1985
Love on the Run (1979) - Love On the Run (1979)
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
Actress Dani, who plays Jean Pierre Leaud's lover Lilianne also appeared in Francois Truffaut's 1973 film La Nuit Americaine (Day For Night). In it she also plays Leaud's lover, and the character is also named Lilianne. Lilianne's speech to Claude Jade about why she is breaking up with Leaud's character is verbatim to what Lilianne said to Jacqueline Bisset about breaking it off with Leaud's character in Day For Night.
The film features extensive flashbacks to the previous four films in Truffaut's Antoine Doinel cycle of films
Released in United States 1979
Released in United States 1992
Released in United States 1995
Released in United States 1999
Released in United States 1992 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Tribute to Francois Truffaut) June 18 - July 2, 1992.)
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.)
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 1979