It was about seven years ago when I first saw The 400 Blows (1959), I loved its view of Paris, its solidarity of going nowhere in particular. After waiting for years, The box set of the five films of Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) all co-written and directed by Francois Truffaut was released on Region 2 by Artificial Eye in Britain. The film following The 400 Blows is a short film (part of the feature Love at Twenty) called Antoine et Colette (1962). Antoine gets on well with Colette’s parents, but Colette (Marie-France Pisier) does not share his feelings. Shot once again in black and white Antoine et Colette is a bittersweet chapter in the life of Doinel. In Stolen Kisses (1968), Antoine goes from the army, to hotel watchman, to private detective working on the street and then undercover in shoe shop to a TV repairman. Truffaut seems to having the most fun in the series with this episodic narrative. it’s full of humour. Truffaut’s camera placements are static and knowing. Antoine is close to Christine (Claude Jade) who he has been chasing for two years. “Making love to someone is proving you exist” says a colleague to Antoine. In Bed and Board (1970) Antoine and Christine are married and have a son, Alphonse. Antoine runs a flower stall in the courtyard of their apartment building and Christine teaches violin lessons. Soon after Antoine gets a new job and things get complicated. The last scene is pure comedy, Antoine mirrors the man next door by throwing his wife’s coat and handbag down the stairs when she won’t leave fast enough. Leaud’s natural way with dialogue and general presence make the character watchable regardless of his actions. In the final chapter Love on the Run (1979) (which contains many flashbacks from the previous films) Antoine tries ultimately to sort his life out with what he has. Who knows what ever happened to him beyond that last scene. The opening and closing credits have stills of the characters, Truffaut’s homage to twenty years in one person’s life.
Truffaut said of Leaud “the most interesting actor of his generation. There are actors who are interesting even if they merely stand in front of a door; Léaud is one of them” Mark Cousins said of Leaud “Truffaut’s alter-ego, way better than Brando, Clift, James Dean or De Niro. Nobody acts like him, nobody looks like him. He’s maniac, cheeky, he bursts cinema” Leaud holds a real presence on screen. Antoine shares many similarities with Truffaut, they even look alike. . Doinel coasts through life, he always lives in the present. By making five films Truffaut is simply saying life goes on. Each film is its own film, which is rare to say for a series. Truffaut and Leaud have achieved five masterpieces about life with all its ordinariness and coincidences.