The Reflection of Life:
Truffaut's Adventures of Antoine Doinel
By Jen Johans
*Note: contains plot spoilers*            

When I was fifteen years old, I turned on the television and fell in love. Afterwards, the
source of my affections evolved as I began to dig deeper into why the film with the
peculiar title--
The 400 Blows-- had left me so captivated.  At the surface, there was of
course my love of French cinema but then I discovered that, not only had the movie
inspired 90’s film gods such as Quentin Tarantino and the Weinstein brothers at
Miramax, but the film had also helped define a movement, which began in the late 1950’s.
Thus my vision narrowed to an obsession with the French New Wave and I nearly wore
out my library card and a favorite pair of shoes trying to track down the obscure titles in
suburban Minnesota.  However, countless viewing hours later, I found that I didn’t have
the same reaction to all films from the movement—most of Godard’s hyper-masculine
political work annoyed me, Resnais was a romantic puzzle I was too young to solve,
Chabrol was creepy and a bit misogynistic and I wasn’t quite prepared for the
philosophical ramblings of Rohmer.  Mainly, I realized my heart belonged first to one
man-- Jean-Pierre Léaud-- until I discovered that Antoine Doinel, the thinly disguised
character he was portraying laid claim to the real source of my devotion; his name was
François Truffaut and for ten years, the foreign film side of my heart has belonged to
him.  Now a decade later, I decided to inundate myself with research on Truffaut, the New
Wave and after reading through everything, watch the entire Antoine Doinel series again
to assess the way my attitudes may have changed over the years.  The love is still there
now more than ever as I realize some of the shortcomings in Truffaut that make him more
precious than ever as people are always more fascinating when flawed.  However, this
time, armed with research and life experience, I can now take my subjects down from the
pedestal of naïve first love and analyze French film’s holy trinity (Truffat, Léaud, and
Doinel) in a whole new light.

In a
Senses of Cinema article, John Conomos called François Truffaut “one of the seminal
autobiographical filmmakers of our times.”  When watching his movies and most notably
the Antoine Doinel series, one becomes acutely aware that he as a director is leaving his
fingerprints all over the screen for the viewer to decipher.    The “first self taught-critic,”
(Gonzalez,
Senses of Cinema) Truffaut was the quintessential film buff that, as a
journalist for
Cahiers du Cinema, blasted traditional, polished filmmaking to help launch
the French New Wave and revolutionize the art of cinema.  However, before getting to his
professional career, it is important to discuss his beginnings for, as Richard Neupert
stated in
A History of the French New Wave Cinema, “more than any other recent French
director, Truffaut’s private life is somehow felt to be essential background material for
appreciating and interpreting his films,” (162).

Born into a dysfunctional family, the unwanted son of a single woman and anonymous
man, Truffaut mostly lived with his grandmother.  When he turned ten, Truffaut returned
home, moving in with his mother and her new husband who gave François his last name
of Truffaut, however his parents’ involvement in his life was minimal and disinterested.  
By this time, Truffaut had discovered cinema and often truant from school, he sneaked
into theatres, obsessively educating himself via the world of film.  “At fourteen, after
successively abandoning several schools, he decided to be self-taught,” and enforced a
strict curriculum of “three films a day” and “three books a week,” in order to better his
education, according to a
Senses of Cinema biography by Juan Carlos Gonzalez.  
Arguably, the first critic turned director who created his own film school by going to the
movies, Truffaut always prided himself on his education.  Richard Neupert explains:

    “…Truffaut escaped into the world of film criticism, where he learned early on the
    power inherent in his own brand of fanaticism when it was backed up with concrete
    evidence from his encyclopedic knowledge of international cinema. Truffaut
    capitalized on confounding his own autobiography with the cinema, encouraging
    critics reviewing his movies to see him as a truly obsessive child of the cinema, since
    his own real-world family was so dysfunctional.” (163)

In 1947, at the age of fifteen, Truffaut founded his own film club and found his surrogate
father in Andre Bazin, a beloved, influential critic.  The two became fast friends and years
later, after Bazin bailed out imprisoned army deserter Truffaut, he hired the young man
to write for his
Cahiers du Cinema magazine.  In 1954, his pen made him something of a
controversial legend when “Truffaut laid down the groundwork for the ‘auteur’ theory
which states that the director is the primary creator of a film.” (Maltin, IMDb).  This
article not only inspired contemporaries such as Jean-Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer, but
Truffaut had managed to inspire himself as well.  He proceeded to use his newfound
talent for journalism again, this time writing a controversial call for young directors to
take arms (or cameras) to stop the flood of formulaic, uninspired French films being
released.  His contemporaries took note, however the Cannes Film Festival was angered
by the attack and banned Truffaut the same year the article was published, thus
accidentally by their extreme reaction, helped create a legend.

After working as an assistant director for Roberto Rossellini, Truffaut learned firsthand
the technical aspects of filmmaking that he’d missed as a critic and amateur filmmaker of
a short film in 1954 that he’d detested.  In 1957, he took the plunge in a number of ways:
marrying the daughter of an important film distributor, Madeleine Morgenstern;
directing the much-loved short
Les Mistons (The Mischief-Makers) which would help
define his style and recurring themes of childhood and love; and also creating Les Films
du Carrosse, his own production company, named after a Jean Renoir film. Truffaut’s
first feature for the company,
The 400 Blows introduced audiences to his fictitious alter
ego Antoine Doinel (played to perfection by Jean-Pierre Léaud).  The film has since
become “one of the most written about motion pictures in history,” ending with a
heartbreaking freeze-frame of “Antoine’s ambivalent look to the camera [that] now
symbolizes a whole new sort of film practice,” (Neupert, 177).  The last shot of the movie
is as identifiable to film buffs as the Olympic rings are to sports fans, and at its very
essence, this grainy, ambivalent shot is signifies the arrival of the French New Wave.

The face that had become forever ingrained in the minds of film lovers around the globe
belonged to relative newcomer, Jean-Pierre Léaud.  According to Leonard Maltin, the son
of an assistant director and actress, Jean-Pierre Léaud “was a maladjusted youth and had
been expelled from half a dozen boarding schools by the time he was 13.”  Simply put, he
had much in common not only with Truffaut but also with the character of Antoine
Doinel and after only starring in one film, managed to impress the director.  Truffaut
sang Léaud’s praises throughout his career, often calling him a “precious collaborator,”
on the Doinel series (he even encouraged the actor to use his own vocabulary instead of
the script), directing him in numerous other films, even going so far as to dedicate
The
Wild Child
to the actor whose face had caused a sensation.  Truffaut explains that
although there were rebellious and antisocial similarities between Doinel and Léaud,
Jean-Pierre “was a more wholesome adolescent and quite often he was downright cocky,”
(Truffaut, 8).  Truffaut explains that when the young actor arrived for his screen test, as
soon as he was seated in front of the camera he said:
“I heard you were looking for a fresh
guy, so I came,”
(Truffaut, 8).  

The “fresh guy” managed to change Truffaut’s entire concept of the character and
Truffaut explains, quoting Jean Renoir’s idea that actors are always more important than
the parts they play that, “from the day we started shooting
The 400 Blows Antoine Doinel
began to move away from me to come closer to Jean-Pierre,” (Truffaut, 13).  In retrospect,
it’s fun trying to dissect just which pieces of Doinel’s personality belong to which man--
the director or the star-- however I just prefer to view the character as a composite of the
two.  Truffaut argues that he initially “saw Antoine as being more fragile, more
unpolished, less aggressive; Jean-Pierre gave him his health, his aggressiveness, his
courage,” (Le Berre, 28).  Jean-Pierre was so worried he would be unsympathetic to
audiences that he constantly tried to smile for the camera (33) and Truffaut fought with
the actor not to drop his guard.  However, like Léaud he too initially gave into the idea of
a happy ending by adding a voice-over narration that did in fact play with the film in
certain countries such as the former USSR when it was released (Le Berre, 30).

Taking the name of the film from a French idiom, which, loosely translated means “to
raise hell,”
The 400 Blows essentially told the story of “a boy who doesn’t dare go home
after telling a lie at school, and the infernal machine he is subsequently caught up in,”
(Le Berre, 20).   The film was originally going to be set “against the background of the
Occupation” (Le Berre, 20) but without the funds for an expensive period piece, Truffaut’
s film was set in current day.  Audiences follow the many travails of Antoine Doinel’s life
as he misbehaves, endures cruel teachers, is nearly invisible to his frightening mother
and half-interested father, skips school with a friend and then suffers the consequences
after he returns to school the next day with the fake excuse that his mother had died.  
Once his parents find out, Antoine goes out on the lam, hiding at a friend’s place and in a
printing press until he decides to steal a typewriter from his father’s office to sell, in
order to fund his escape to the seashore where he can take care of himself and start a boat
business.  He gets caught after he tries to return the typewriter to the office, goes to jail,
and his parents send him off to a juvenile detention camp.  Of course he escapes, making
the now famous run from the authorities in breathtakingly long black and white shots,
until ending up in front of the ocean for the first time as the film ends with the
aforementioned freeze-frame.

According to Columbia University film professor and critic Annette Insdorf, the film was
“an elaboration of what the French New Wave directors would embrace as the
camera-
stylo
(camera-as-pen) whose ecriture (writing style) could express the filmmakers as
personally as a novelist’s pen,” and that Truffaut’s film ranks as “one of the supereme
examples of ‘camera in the first person singular.’”  The film, like
Les Mistons, managed to
set Truffaut on a path for his career.  Colombian film critic Luis Alberto Alvarez said it
best when he stated that “all of his work is a search for a lost childhood,” and the issues of
paternity, and the search for not only a surrogate father but a surrogate family, along
with finding a woman to correct the wrongs of his mother, proved to be the major themes
and issues of his semi-autobiographical career.  In
Senses of Cinema Juan Carlos
Gonzalez elaborates on the director’s biography in a section entitled “Of lost boys and
men that don’t want to grow up,” illustrating that all of the main heroes in Truffaut’s
work, most notably Antoine Doinel, “offer their [romantic] partners… a childlike love,
immature and provisional, prone to infidelity.”  This characteristic was apparent to
Gonzalez since Truffaut had instilled a “lost childhood” in his leads, causing the heroes
to age with a “sense that adulthood must recuperate lost time.”  Truffuat, like his
characters, was prone to infidelity and fast love himself, often like Doinel running in and
out of relationships with the many beautiful women he encountered, hoping each one
could save him.  Is it any wonder that the boy who struggled to grow up made his
Hollywood debut acting in
Close Encounters of the Third Kind for director Steven
Spielberg-- another movie lover whose films often deal with lost innocence in childhood
and men who are still boys at heart?

Due to the autobiographical events that flooded the Doinel series, some critics considered
The 400 Blows to have been made as revenge to the parents that had wronged him.  
Truffaut, now under attack after the film’s popularity caused him to become the subject
of journalistic research that revealed his past, initially lied that his parents had been
wonderful.  However, they knew better and Truffaut stated “his parents felt very insulted
by the movie and divorced soon after its release” (Neupert, 182).  While the film did
invoke much of the director’s life, there is another seldom discussed reason revealed in
A
History of the French New Wave
that added “more ammunition to charges that he was
using his first feature for rather cruel revenge against his parents,” (181).  In the film,
Antoine Doinel’s best friend, styled after a boy named Robert with whom he’d grown up,
was named Rene most likely after a son his mother had had that only lived for two
months.  When his parents had taken François under their wing at the age of ten, they’d
been embarrassed by the fact that he’d been not a rightful Truffaut but merely a “bastard”
and often substituted Rene’s birth date on documents.  Thus, according to Neupert’s
research, François “was forced to share the birthday of the dead brother he’d never met,”
and however consciously, Robert became Rene in the film, portraying the brother/friend
he’d never known (181).

In 1962, Truffaut would look back and say the film had been characteristic of “a period of
my life,” arguing that if it had been made even earlier it would have been angrier, however
now he had second thoughts, saying that if filmed today “he would try to strike a fairer
balance between the adults’ responsibility and that of the adolescents,’” (Le Berre, 24).  
He received the chance to compensate with
Antoine and Colette, the “lighter, simpler”
film with “very sympathetic adults” he felt he liked better as it was “closer to life,” (Le
Berre, 63).

Antoine and Colette was a short film in an anthology named Love at Twenty, which gave
filmmakers the chance to tell their stories of first love and originally Truffaut had
originally wanted to make it like Chaplinesque comedy but, as in his other films, it
eventually took on a more melancholic tone.  Truffaut decided to check back in with
Doinel, anxious to work with Léaud again and the result was the creation of a short film
that the director said was one of his favorite works he’d directed.  Until this opportunity,
he had “forbidden himself to make a sequel too quickly because, out of pride or modesty,
he did not want to appear to be profiting from the success of his first film,” (Le Berre, 60).  
According to a review of the film written for the Criterion Collection DVD release by Kent
Jones, when it came to casting the role of Doinel’s would-be love, Truffaut placed an ad in
Cinemonde listing his criteria for “a real girl” (such as “if too ‘sexy,’ please abstain”) with
the headline: “François Truffaut seeks finance for Jean-Pierre Léaud and for
Love at
Twenty
.” Eventually, he cast a beautiful teenaged actress from Nice, an amateur named
Marie-France Pisier, who I strongly believe had more personality than all of Doinel’s
future leading ladies and is even more impressive when she returns in the finale to the
series.

The story was mostly autobiographical and takes place when Doinel is seventeen. Now
emancipated from his parents with the help of a psychologist at one of the reform
schools, and living on his own, Doinel works for Phillips Records and is a still friend of
Rene.  He falls in love with a beautiful young woman named Colette, whom he first sees at
a concert in an extensive scene Truffaut heightens with several quick cuts, possibly
preparing to film his next major work of erotic obsession, the often-criticized
The Soft
Skin
.  Doinel, just like Truffaut, falls in love quickly (it’s rumored that, although married
at the time, Truffaut was involved with the teenaged leading lady).  Antoine confuses her
friendship with love and manages to charm her parents whom he adores, initially setting
up the recurring idea of Doinel to not only fall in love with a girl, but her entire family
whom he wishes could be his own.  He even goes so far as to move across the street from
her (Truffaut’s films seen in this era of stalkers sometimes take their obsessions too far
for comfort) but ultimately she breaks his heart.  Truffaut sums it up best when he says
“Colette has no use at all for a boy who appeals to her parents,” (Truffaut, 10).  It’s hard
on Doinel but for Truffaut, this first heartbreak over a girl named Liliane (a name later
used in two of his films for a promiscuous character) was nearly fatal.  After she fooled
around with other men at a party without giving him a glance, Truffaut slashed his arm
twenty-five times with a razor.  As soon as he’d healed, he joined the army and that’s just
where we pick up with Doinel, whom, Truffuat would explain in their next pairing
Stolen
Kisses
, enlisted in the army for adventure-sake and partly yes, for escape from love.

In
Stolen Kisses, the “lighter and more festive” (Sarris) third film in the Doinel series
(and second feature length work) finds early twenty-something Doinel dishonorably
discharged from the army and beginning to get back to civilian life. The audience quickly
learns that during his time away, Doinel had been corresponding with a student named
Christine Darbon, played by Claude Jade.  Truffaut doesn’t introduce the actress for
several scenes and instead decided to play off the previous film’s revelation that Antoine
falls in love with entire families by having Antoine visit her home, only to be entertained
by Christine’s parents. However, the audience can tell that his affection for violinist
Christine is reciprocated in “her introductory scene, stepping out of the Parisian night to
wave shyly at Antoine through a glass wall,” (
Wikipedia).  Frequently, as in the
aforementioned example, the director was forced to “decide if it was better to tell certain
stories or show them,” (Le Berre, 108).  Later, in a funny sequence, Doinel is recruited to
work at a detective agency and although he has difficulty tailing people without their
knowledge, he goes undercover in a shoe store to learn why the employees all hate the
boss and, as only Doinel can, finds himself falling for the boss’ wife.  Truffaut noted that
the film was not to be taken as “a statement of modern youth,” and that those expecting it
would may be disappointed as “it is precisely because of this anachronism and
romanticism that I found Jean-Pierre so appealing; he is a young man of the nineteenth
century,” (Truffaut, 11).

The film is filled with technical details; letters and correspondence, misinformation and
above all, a multi-faceted plot bursting with several characters and situations until as
Andrew Sarris wrote, “gradually, one obsession piles upon another until all Paris seems
drenched with desire.” Le Berre states that the many layers of
Stolen Kisses seem to recall
Lubitsch (and this would be even more apparent in
Bed and Board).  Le Berre explains:

    “In keeping with the principle of diversion and accumulation, scenes are never one-
    note, never limited to one idea or one event; instead they compress several layers
    and several levels, the criss-crossing of different lives that a single-setting (‘at the
    heart of the human heart’) brings together in one place at the same time.” (106)

Initially Truffaut’s idea was simply to make Antoine a journalist, just like he had been (Le
Berre, 101) but as he’d said before, Jean-Pierre’s personality had overtaken the
character.  Truffaut decided to move away from autobiography and once the detective
plot was introduced, he told the other writers, “let’s give the everyday a feeling of
exoticism as strong as a James Bond movie,” (Le Berre, 105). In real life, Truffaut was
playing detective as well as he found art inspiring life, causing him to wonder about his
real father.  He hired a private detective and according to the documentary
François
Truffaut: Stolen Moments
learned his father was a Jewish dentist.  Although he didn’t
contact the man, references to Judaism appeared in his films and left him with an
aspiration to make a WWII story (which he later did with
The Last Metro).  The detective
scenes seem fascinating and accurate—Truffaut said that the co-writers did extensive
research because he’d learned from Jean Renoir that audiences buy fantasy in plots when
it is rooted in realism and the results can be magic (Truffaut, 10).

In 1968, during the making of
Stolen Kisses, reality managed to flood the film’s shoot as
the Henri Langlois “L’Affaire de la Cinematheque’ was causing Truffaut and Léaud to do
double-duty.  By day, they worked on the film and later joined the protests in support of
the recently ousted Langlois, who’d been replaced as the head of the Cinemateque by a
government appointee and many films were seized.  The slogan during the making of
Stolen Kisses was that if it was good, “it will be thanks to Langlois; if it’s bad, we’ll blame
it on Barbin [the replacement],” (Truffaut, 11).  Luckily, Langlois was given his old
position back and he loved the film, telling Truffaut that he didn’t want to be kept waiting
so long to see Jean-Pierre Léaud and Claude Jade marry (Truffaut, 12).

Bed and Board, released two years later, is essentially as writer/director Noah Baumbach
stated, “a comedy about marriage, the desire to escape it, and the craftiness involved in
running from one’s own desires.”  Although, like some of the other films in the Doinel
series, Truffaut’s first ideas for the tone of sequel were quite different from what the film
ultimately became.  He wanted to revive the creepy character of “The Definitive Man,” a
harmless but still disturbing stalker that Christine had had in
Stolen Kisses.  In the
beginning of
Bed and Board, Truffaut wanted to show the suicide of The Definitive Man
since the woman he loved had married Doinel.  However, luckily for the film and for
audiences everywhere, he finally gave up “this rather harsh idea” and opted for “a more
openly comic vein,” (Le Berre, 142).

In preparing for the film, Truffaut turned to the same co-writers utilized for
Stolen
Kisses
, Claude de Givray and Bernard Revon.  Truffaut asked the men to help write
something, that “though essentially French, would be in the spirit of the American
comedies of Leo McCarey, George Cukor and, of course, Lubitsch, who excels at injecting
laughter into the events of everyday life,” (Truffaut, 12).  Like Lubitsch, Truffaut wanted
to “avoid exposition in the traditional sense, which is documentary and anti-dramatic,”
(Le Berre, 142) and thus the film excels at indirect information and intriguing ways for
the audience and the characters to grasp events such as that the two have married,
Christine is pregnant, and that awhile later Doinel has an affair.  In a way, the inclusion
of the affair made the director look at
Bed and Board as a comedic remake of his failed
The Soft Skin, and the director noted that he wanted to “show that one can say all that
while laughing instead of being gloomy,” (Le Berre, 145).  The affair itself and Christine’s
knowledge of Antoine’s infidelity is handled in a subtle, indirect way.  It’s an immense
sign of respect that Truffaut had for his audience’s intellectual capacity that he would
insert major plot points in very subtle, ingenious ways.  It’s twice as risky in the Doinel
films most assume are light when in fact they are as intricate as a snowflake—one missed
cue or shot and audiences who aren’t on their game may miss a large piece of
information. The initial shooting script had several dialogue scenes (mostly marital
ones) left to “the inspiration of the shoot,” (Le Berre, 144).  It’s rather telling that the
marital scenes again seem slightly autobiographical and in fact, Truffaut was seriously
involved with actress Claude Jade during the shoot and gave her a very personal piece of
dialogue near the end, after Christine and Antoine have briefly separated.  Doinel had
written an autobiographical book dealing with his life and mostly with his childhood and
Christine shares that she thinks it isn’t right to drag one’s parents through the mud,
saying that when art is used to settle scores it is no longer art.  It makes one wonder if
Truffaut was using this moment to confess his intentions with
The 400 Blows, apologize,
answer his critics or if he had actually had a similar conversation with Jade, from which
this dialogue had sprung.

Truffaut admitted later that he’d treated Doinel differently in this film than the others.  
He said he looked at the character this time with a “very critical eye” and treated Doinel
with a “severe approach” since by this film, he’s become an adult and Truffaut said, “I am
never as gentle with adults as I am with adolescents,” (Truffaut, 12).  Noah Baumbach
approached this issue quite well in his Criterion Collection essay but seems to make the
fault lie with Léaud:

    “His Antoine is sly and subversive, cold and frustratingly passive.  He practically
    floats through the film.  Léaud/Doinel never makes any real decisions, preferring to
    let life happen to him…. This maddening inability to act makes us so badly want to
    reach out to him.  It’s been four movies and we’ve lived too long with Antoine not to
    demand that he shape up.  We want to both shake him and save him.  And we resent
    that we feel so sorry for him.  His relationships are all about comfort, but once he
    gets comfortable he has to destroy it.”  (Criterion Collection)

Baumbach’s idea of Antoine as the destroyer of comfort harkens back to the first
character sketch Truffaut had written of the boy when preparing for
The 400 Blows:
“Antoine proceeds in life like an orphan and looks for foster families but once he has
found them, he tends to run away, for he remains by nature an escapist,” (Truffaut, 12).  
This being said, it’s no wonder that the most definitive image we have of Antoine is of him
running in the first film, therefore it’s hardly surprising that the final film in the Doinel
series is named
Love on the Run.  The film, released in 1979, was made after the predicted
failure of Truffaut’s morose film
The Green Room left him needing to “shoot something
fast to balance the books of Les Films du Carosse,” (Le Berre, 256) even though originally
Bed and Board was supposed to be the last film. He felt bad about seemingly cashing in or
commercializing Antoine Doinel, saying he’d made too many films in a short period of
time for them to be the way he’d wanted and didn’t want to rush
Love on the Run.  
However, he liked the idea of giving the series an official close in order to make other
films with Léaud (Le Berre, 256).  However, Truffaut had other concerns and he felt,
“conscious of his inability to make a character mature and advance when he couldn’t see
himself giving [Doinel] the emotional stability or social status that comes from having a
real career,” (Le Berre, 256).  Noah Baumbach said it best when he stated that Truffaut
“often gives his characters [especially Doinel] such seemingly arbitrary and bizarre jobs,
jobs out of a kid’s imagination.”  However, “at this point in Antoine’s life, the arrested-
adolescent routine is wearing thin,” (Chris Fujiwara).  Thus, Truffaut felt unhappy with
the initial script about Doinel’s divorce from Christine, running into Colette again and
ultimately deciding to commit to his current girlfriend Sabine, because he felt a need to
give good scenes worthy of the talent involved.  His original idea was to have “Jean-Pierre
Léaud on an analyst’s couch recounting scenes from his life,” (Le Berre, 256).  His
problems were temporarily solved by a brilliant suggestion to include a train as a
metaphor, from Marie-France Pisier who joined the cast, reviving her role as Doinel’s first
love, Colette.  Pisier recalled an impulsive moment Léaud had had during the filming of
Antoine and Colette when he jumped on a train to follow her family and felt that it would
work in the last film.  Truffaut agreed and utilized what some “detractors” of the film
called, “flashbacks as a kind of Antoine Doinel’s Greatest Hits,” (Fujiwara) and stated his
belief that, “the flashbacks that start on the train are particularly dynamic because, when
we return to the present, we’re on a moving train, therefore part of something that’s going
forwards,” (Le Berre, 257).

The flashbacks that appear through the course of the film caused some critics to feel
Love
on the Run
was an unnecessary inclusion in the Doinel series.  Chris Fujiwara explained
in his Criterion Collection review that he felt that the flashbacks’ “order and
purposefulness give a certain intellectual tension to a film that risked coming off as too
relaxed,” and cited that the editing took on “unusual importance” as the film is “edited
throughout with dazzling verve.”  The repeated scenes come not only from the Doinel
series but additional “fake flashbacks” were created for
Love on the Run as well.  
Interestingly, a few scenes came from
Day for Night (which also starred Léaud )and
Truffaut abducted another character from the film effectively for usage in
Love as yet
another woman who comes between Doinel and his wife, signifying the end of their
marriage.  However, as Christine tells Colette in the film, by that point Christine had
fallen out of love with her ex.  It’s fascinating to watch the ex-girlfriends of Antoine
Doinel working side by side when one realizes that they’d both been involved with
Truffaut—their personalities come through more on certain lines as they sum up Doinel,
making viewers wonder just how much is autobiographical.

One sequence of major importance not only for
Love on the Run but the entire Doinel
series takes place when the main lover of Doinel’s mother (seen kissing her in the street in
The 400 Blows) appears and takes Antoine out for lunch.  The two men discuss their
views of Mrs. Doinel and Truffaut receives closure with his mother, via Doinel.  Le Berre
explains in
François Truffaut at Work:

    “It is a scene of posthumous reconciliation both with Doinel’s mother, whose grave
    the lover, telling him she is at peace, leads him to in Montmartre Cemetary, and with
    the film-maker’s mother, who died in 1968.” (258)

Quoting from the de Baecque and Toubiana biography of the director, Chris Fujiwara
writes that the scene owes much “to Truffaut’s discovery in his mother’s archives, just
after her death, of numerous documents left by her which proved a real attachment
toward her son.”  It seems that he has finally answered Christine and his critics’ charge
about using art to settle scores for as Fujiwara writes that by now “Truffaut is finished
with settling old scores.”

It’s been said that the sins of one’s father go to the son, and although Truffaut never knew
his father, he put the sins onscreen and had his surrogate son, Jean-Pierre Léaud as
Antoine Doinel deal with the issues of the past.  Like Andre Bazin was to a young, troubled
Truffaut, so the director would be in the life of Léaud.  Before starring in
The 400 Blows,
the young man was often getting in trouble but via the film and Doinel, he found
redemption.  Truffaut set Léaud on his path becoming one of the biggest stars of the New
Wave, the assistant director to Godard on several of his films (although mostly
uncredited) and keeping politically active, according to Leonard Maltin (IMDb).  
Truffaut called Léaud:

    “The best French actor of his generation, and it would be unfair not to mention that,
    to him, Antoine Doinel is only one of the characters he has played, one of the fingers
    on his hand, one of the costumes he wears, one of the schools of his childhood.”
    (Truffaut, 13)

Although he did play other roles, Maltin sums it up best by saying that the “sad-faced
French actor… will always be remembered as Antoine Doinel.”  Thus, the trinity of the
French New Wave was created with Truffaut, Léaud, and Doinel and it is only fitting that
the director liked threes.  His films, including the Doinel series, often deal with love
triangles; however, Doinel’s and Truffaut’s triangles mostly consisted of themselves, the
person with whom they’re involved, and the past.  Truffaut has been often quoted as
asking if life or cinema was more important but perhaps his most telling quote is when he
stated, “I have always preferred the reflect of the life to life itself.”  More than any other
filmmaker, Truffaut’s works leave behind a stunning confession, a Balzac-worthy
autobiography mixed with just enough fiction to make them art.  Instead of using a pen
like most journaling their lives, Truffaut used the camera and the whole world took note,
including a teenage girl from Minnesota who fell in love.


    Bibliography

    Adventures of Antoine Doinel, The.  The Criterion Collection.  Inc. Essays
    and films.  2001.

    Conomos, John.  Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, or the Sea, Antoine, the Sea.
    3/30/06 www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/00/6/blows.html

    Gonzalez, Juan Carlos A.  Francois Truffaut.  3/30/06 www.sensesofcinema.
    com/contents/directors/03/truffaut.html  

    IMDb.  www.IMDb.com

    Le Berre, Carole.  Francois Truffaut at Work.  Phaidon Press; New York.  
    2004.

    Neupert, Richard. A History of the French New Wave Cinema .  The
    University of Wisxonsin Press; Wisconsin. 2002.

    Toubiana, Serge & Pascal, Michael.  Francois Truffaut: Stolen Moments.  
    France;1993.

    Truffuat, Francois. Four by Truffaut:The Adventures of Antoine Doinel.  
    Simon and Schuster; New York. 1971.

    Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 4/20/06.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
(c) Jen Johans.   filmintuition.com
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