The justAtad Essentials: #16-20

October 12, 2011 — 16 Comments

The justAtad Essentials: The 400 Blows

If you want to watch a film about childhood, The 400 Blows should be first on your list. It’s remarkable. Truffaut’s brutal, hopeful, incredibly honest film about a kid growing up in Paris is about as good as a film can get. There’s not much plot. A lot of it is very simple, slice-of-life storytelling, but that honesty elevates it into something really special.

I can’t say that I relate too closely to the lead character, Antoine Doinel. In fact, he’s really nothing like me at all, and my childhood was completely different. Yet the universality of his struggles touch me deeply. He’s a kid who just wants to have fun. He’s contemptuous of authority, including his parents and school, but he’s also incredibly bright and passionate.

His relationship with his parents is sad. He clearly loves them, despite the problems he causes, but they don’t seem to love him very much. The theme of parental abandonment is common in coming-of-age films, but in The 400 Blows, Antoine suffers such abandonment and his parents are not redeemed.

Instead, his strength lies within. There isn’t any real redemption in the film, but Antoine’s yearning for freedom does pay off at the end, though maybe only briefly. Antoine Doinel is one of the most winning characters ever put on film, and The 400 Blows tells the beautiful, emotional story of his growing up and gaining independence. It’s a great story, and one that anyone can get into and enjoy, even if it’s got that pretentious “French New Wave” label attached to it.

Previous: The Shining

Next: Casablanca

16 responses to The justAtad Essentials: #16-20


    ” Not a list of films I consider great, but a list of films I consider a part of myself. I hope I’m providing some insight into myself beyond the simplicity of taste.”

    This is just so lovely. If only more bloggers could write posts like that! It’s the kind of posts I enjoy most of all. Thank you for sharing your love for those movies. I got particularly inspired to rewatch Casablanca, even if you were pretty brief on the reasons why it’s so great. 😉 I used to have Bogart posters all over my wall in my room when I was a teenager.


    Agreed on Once Upon a Time in the West. One of my all time favorite Westerns and that Operatic quality, as you call it, is what makes it so memorable and fantastic.

    I also love the fantastic Claudia Cardinale.

    I like the Shining a lot, but A Clockwork Orange, to me, is a better crafted film and one that resonates with me much more. But The Shining is my second favorite Kubrick.

    No Country is good, but I think the Coens have made at least five films I find more intriguing and involving, although this might be their most well-crafted piece, technically. The more personal elements you bring out resonate with me much more in the other films of the Coen Bros.

    The 400 Blows is okay. Small Change is leagues better at capturing a more well-rounded and diverse look at childhood. It’s also hilarious.

    As for Casablanca…yea, it’s awesome.


      A Clockwork Orange would probably be my #2 Kubrick film, and I think the reason it falls below The Shining for me is simply that I don’t have any as much of a visceral reaction to it. I know a lot of people find the film intensely shocking. My sister watched it once and still complains about being disturbed by it. But it never quite struck me that way beyond a few really great, memorable images. For me, it’s a film that operates almost entirely as an intellectual exercise. That’s not a bad thing at all, but like I said, The Shining has that sort of weird combination that makes it rise about all other Kubrick films, and all other horror films I’ve seen. They are both fantastic, though.

      The 400 Blows, for me, is not so much about a well-rounded or diverse look at childhood. There are many better films when it comes to that. Even Stand By Me would be ahead in that respect. For me, The 400 Blows works because of how specific it is to its lead character. Like I said, I did not share his experience in almost any way, but somehow I felt the universality of the character’s struggles anyway in terms of his wanting independence and his pushing up against authority. That specificity lends it an emotional connection that I cannot get enough of.

      As for No Country, it’s interesting to me that the Coens have dealt with similar themes and a similar view of the world over and over, and I can easily see getting a stronger connection to all that from some of their other films. No Country just happens to be the one that connected with me the most AND I adore the pure suspense entertainment of it to no end. Even without all the thematic stuff it would probably be one of my favourite movies.


      Furrealz? That’s mavrleously good to know.


    I like Casablanca, but feel like the romanticism of it is overblown. I realize I’m in the minority on this stance, but I suppose we all have to be monsters somewhere.


    BuT, oh yeah, great work as usual, Corey!


    I agree with Shane. Casablanca is good, I just don’t find it exceptional.

    Once Upon A Time In the West, though. That is a masterpiece, hands down.

    The Shining is certainly a standout, but I’d be hard pressed to decide on a favorite Kubrick. I’d need to finish watching his films, for one.


    Ps. I also enjoy the choice to go with the title cards.


    I agree on three out of five of these–and only because I’ve only seen three of these five.

    Once Upon a Time in the West is a film I simply haven’t gotten to. The same with The 400 Blows. I’ll watch both in the near future, but they haven’t risen to the top of the queue yet.

    I’ll side with the others who have picked A Clockwork Orange as the Kubrick film of choice. It’s my favorite of his for a lot of reasons–actually, almost every reason. The Shining is a close second, so it’s hard to disagree with that decision.

    No Country for Old Men is hands-down my favorite Coen film. I also think it’s their best film from stem to stern. It’s also my favorite role and performance of Tommy Lee Jones. Much of my love of that movie comes from the dialogue. It sounds so much as if the actors have spoken in this way their entire life, and this regional speech pattern–phrases like “I surely do don’t”–are a natural part of their vocabulary.

    As for Casablanca, that’s a litmus test film. If you don’t like Casablanca, there is something inherently off about you.


    Chesspartner will then prompt you for a file name, which yyou can make whatever you want.
    You don’t need to memorize lines or variations; you just need to be acquainted with most openings and their basic ideas.
    In that case, Gene says, “I encourage families to stack the deck.

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