Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Antoine et Colette

Dir: François Truffaut
30 minutes, 1962

Source: The Adventures of Antoine Doinel (Criterion Box Set)
Original Source: L'amour a vingt ans

This sequel to Truffaut's classic 400 Blows originally appeared in an anthology of shorts titled Love at Twenty, which also included works by Shintao Ishihara, Marcel Ophuls, Renzo Rossellini, and Andrzej Wajda.

In this 30 minute examination of young, awkward, unrequited love, we catch up with Antoine Doinel 3 years after The 400 Blows. He is now 17 and completely separated from his parents. He lives alone in an apt in Paris and works at a record production factory. Nothing glamorous, Antoine lives a simple yet oddly romantic life. He's still only 17 though, and playing adult isn't as easy as he might want it to be.

The opening suckers me in, regardless of my affection for Tuffaut's work. If I could be anywhere it'd likely be Paris and if I could be anywhen, I'd probably pick Paris in the 60s. It's the morning and Antoine rolls out of bed and in true French New Wave fashion fishes a half smoked cigarette out of an ashtray and stands on his balcony overlooking a busy Parisian street. Bring on the romantic troubles of our 1960s anti-hero.

He falls for a girl he sees at a concert and immediately begins trying to run into her constantly. They become friends. Her parents like Antoine. She treats him like a friend. Antoine grows a little impulsive brought on by her 'mixed signals' and even takes up residence in the hotel across the street from her family's residence. While at first this seems a little much, it occurs to me that with enough freedom, my 17 yr old crushes could have taken me to such levels. Awkward homeroom exchanges and half assed phone calls made under the auspices of missing homework assignments come from the same place that Antoine's decisions come from.
I'll leave you with these essential pieces of the plot and not ruin the end. Though I'm sure you can infer whether or not boy gets girl.

From a filmmaking point of view, Truffaut constructed this film in his usual Nouvelle Vague fashion... fast and loose and vibrant and full of affection for the characters and the medium.
The editing is logical, but sometimes rough around the edges, the sound goes away and allows the soundtrack to let us get the 'feel' of a conversation. We really don't need to hear what is being said, we get the point without words. A song at a concert informs the editing of Antoine and Colette stealing glances at each other. A newsreel of a downhill skiier taking a header while racing is juxtaposed against Antoine's sexual advances.

My favorite filmmaking choice is during scenes with the couple in concerts - the frame shrinks to isolate them. Almost like irising in, but not quite. The frame itself reduces and encompasses Antoine and Colette. There is no practical reason for this, as closer shots are in the same sequence. Seems to this viewer that it's to make us aware of the large negative space around them. They are alone in a crowd, they are the most important people in their little world, in our little world, in the 30 minutes of excitement, frustration and disappointment we live through with Antoine.

Sometimes I miss being a teenager. Thanks to Antoine, this week I don't.

Though this was originally intended to be my Classic post, i'd argue that Jean Pierre Leaud is a star, portraying Antoine in 4 features and this short (talk about sequels and franchises), not to mention appearing in about 30 films with directors such as Godard, Bertolucci, Breillat, and Assayas.

1 comment:

Lindsay Z. said...

I love this film. I'm so glad someone posted it. I think it fits particularly well in the "star-driven" category too -- I remember watching an interview with Truffaut on the DVD for Stolen Kisses where someone asked him where the idea for the film came from, and he replied, "I just really wanted to work with Jean Pierre Leaud again. So I wrote a script based on that."