What defines French New Wave cinema? For some, it might be the jump cuts, freeze frames and existential dialogue that stylized the movement as a whole. Still, "La Nouvelle Vague’s" most influential filmmakers of the late 50s and early 60s weren’t necessarily attempting to revolutionize modern cinema. Well, at least that’s the case for François Truffaut, a former juvenile delinquent and writer for Cahiers du Cinéma, a respected film criticism magazine that employed future filmmaking icons like Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol, Éric Rohmer. In 1959, utilizing his knowledge of classic French cinema and lesser-known American films, and drawing on his personal history, Truffaut released his feature debut The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups). It's a film that blends style with substance, and directorial polish with narrative heart. This video essay pays homage to the spirit of the The 400 Blows—and Jean-Pierre Léaud’s tour de force lead performance—while examining how Truffaut’s semi-autobiographical character finds solace in cinema and his own imagination, thus shaping his worldview and inspiring a great adventure.
Check out Fandor's collection of French films now available to stream. Stayed tuned for new episodes of Riding the Wave, coming soon. In the meantime, watch our odes to one of our favorite French masters, Agnès Varda, as we celebrate the beauty of her sounds and images