THE ADVENTURES OF ANTOINE DOINEL
Review by Ed Nguyen
was the French New Wave? The origin
of the phrase actually pre-dates the cinematic movement itself.
It arose in 1957 from an article (and later a book) by Françoise Giroud
that called for a change within French society.
The French critic Pierre Billard, in February 1958, initially applied the
term to the cinema. By the time of
the first widely successful New Wave film in 1959, the term had stuck.
essence, the New Wave was a term which generally referred to the innovative
French films of the late 1950's and early 1960's. Nevertheless, the New Wave was not by any means represented
in a singular, organized movement. Rather,
it was a loose conglomeration of young, up-and-coming French directors with
often wildly varying, dogmatic styles. This
eclectic group of individuals was united solely by one common bond - an
unwavering enthusiasm and love for film culture. The 400 Blows, in
1959, was the first film to popularize the New Wave, and after its release,
there was a veritable explosion of new directorial talent in French cinema.
By one estimate, nearly 170 directors shot their debut features over the
next three years alone!
the movement persisted to some degree until about 1975, these early formative
years saw the greatest artistic output. Among
the early New Wave directors, some of the most notable ones included Jean-Luc
Godard (Breathless), Claude Chabrol,
Alain Resnais (Hiroshima, Mon Amour),
Agnès Varda, and Jacques Demy (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg). During
the early years of the New Wave, these directors and others established a new
language of cinematic expression. Their films employed rapid filming techniques, location
shooting with natural lighting, hand-held cameras, minimal crews, and small
budgets. The characters in their
films were often contemporary rather than historic and were frequently cast from
unknown actors. For the New Wave
directors, what a film said was intrinsically tied to how it was said. Foregoing
the usual narrative conventions, the New Wave films espoused bolder concepts in
filmmaking. These included the
theory of mise-en-scène (referring to the arrangement of visual elements within
a shot or composition) and new innovations in film editing, such as the jump cut
(expressing a character's restlessness or sense of loss via disorienting leaps
in space and time).
1959's The 400 Blows popularized New
Wave, 1962's Jules and Jim was the
pinnacle of the movement. Remarkably,
both films were the creations of one man, François Truffaut.
Together, these classic films would firmly establish this young,
iconoclastic director as the greatest New Wave director of them all.
a director, François Truffaut was not only very prolific but also possessed a
genuine passion for his craft. During
a short directorial career which spanned just over two decades, he made an
indelible mark in cinema by creating some of the most memorable French films and
characters of the latter half of the twentieth century.
The most famous of Truffaut's screen creations was Antoine Doinel, who
was in actuality Truffaut's alter-ego. First
introduced in the semi-autobiographical The
400 Blows, Antoine Doinel would re-appear in four more films.
Over the course of twenty years, this character would grow up from a
carefree adolescent into a colorful young man.
Many of his misadventures would reflect Truffaut's own personal
experiences, and as Truffaut changed, so did Antoine Doinel.
for the first time, these five films have been assembled together in a glorious
5-DVD box set by The Criterion Collection.
The set comprises the films The 400
Blows (1959), Stolen Kisses
(1968), Bed and Board (1970), Love
on the Run (1979), and the short subject Antoine
and Colette (1962). While The
400 Blows is the most celebrated of these films, they are one and all
indisputable works of incredible
artistry which communicate not only Truffaut's love for the cinema but also his
affinity for personal films that explore human relationships.
Criterion has done a fantastic job with this box set, but the show is only just beginning! Sit back, relax, and click on any of the links in this overview to begin your journey into François Truffaut's wonderfully whimsical world of Antoine Doinel.
Bed and Board
Love on the Run
Criterion set, entitled The Adventures of
Antoine Doinel, showcases not only Truffaut's films but also a wealth of
superlative features. Included
among the five DVDs are film commentaries, documentaries, newsreels, trailers,
interviews, auditions, an early Truffaut short, and much much more!
The extras are generally quite excellent, a testimony to Criterion's
well-established reputation for producing the most consistently outstanding DVDs
in the business.
of the features will be discussed within their respective DVDs.
However, this box set comes with a supplemental disc which deserves
mention here. The shorter extras on
this supplemental disc include a small photo gallery and champ
contre champ, an interview excerpt with Truffaut in which he discusses
Jean-Pierre Léaud, the actor who would portray Antoine Doinel in all his screen
significant is Portrait of François
Truffaut. This 23-minute
excerpt from a 1961 documentary about Truffaut focuses on his early years as a
critic and as a director. A
significant portion of this excerpt is comprised of interview segments with
Truffaut himself, so this feature serves as a good introduction to viewers who
have seen few or none of Truffaut's films before.
is Working with François Truffaut.
This 44-minute documentary features an extensive interview with Claude de
Givray and Bernard Revon, two of Truffaut's closest collaborators.
They discuss everything from Truffaut's early shorts to his Antoine
Doinel films to his unfinished projects. It
is quite an enthusiastic perspective on the famed French director.
of all, however, is Les Mistons (1957),
a 17-minute short film by Truffaut. It
was his second short film, the first being a silent one-reeler, Une
Visite, in 1954. I especially
love the theme music and setting for Les
Mistons, which almost seem to foreshadow the beauty and innocence lost of
Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout. Les Mistons (The
Mischief Makers) is a bittersweet romance as seen through the eyes of five
boys who follow two young lovers around the countryside.
There is a wonderfully refreshing spontaneity to the story, and while it
is a minor production, early evidence of Truffaut's talents as a director,
particularly in his ability to evoke the essence of
relationships and adolescence, can already be seen here.
As such, Les Mistons serves as
an excellent prelude to Truffaut's next film, The
400 Blows. In fact, I would recommend watching Les Mistons first, before any of the Antoine Doinel films, to set
the proper mood.
a nice bonus, Les Mistons comes with
an introduction by Serge Toubiana, a Truffaut film historian.
He also serves as the interviewer for a commentary track by Claude de
Givray, who was Truffaut's assistant director for Les
but not least, this DVD set includes an outstanding 72-page booklet.
It is absolutely teeming with articles, photographs, early film sketches,
reviews, and interviews relating to all five of the Antoine Doinel films.
It is beyond any doubt the best non-DVD inclusion I have seen for any DVD
box set. For Truffaut fans, this
booklet would be worth purchasing alone even if it weren't already part of the