Monday, March 10, 2014

The Adventures of Antoine Doinel

In 1959 Francois Truffaut, along with other members of the French New Wave, shook the world when he introduced the character of Antoine Doinel, a class clown quickly graduating to juvenile delinquency with disinterested parents and an affection for Balzac, in his masterful and intensely personal The 400 Blows. Played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, whose earnestness won over his director during the casting process, would return to the character with Truffaut five times over the course of twenty years in a series of films that turned away almost entirely from the inward emotiveness of the debut to a more lightly comic but still mostly masterful touch. 
As part of the 1962 anthology Love at TwentyAntoine and Colette was the first followup and shows Antoine surprisingly on his own as a young man and attempting to woo a young woman whose feelings aren't exactly reciprocated. The film is observant and an excellent example of short form storytelling.
After a six year hiatus, Truffaut and Leaud returned to Doinel with Stolen Kisses, a light, disarming, and insightful picture showing their hero discharged from the military, job hopping, and taking up with an ex-girlfriend.
1970 saw the release of Bed & Board which was a little more dense and mostly focused on the story's comic highs. Here, Doinel finds himself married with a child on the way but still manages to entangled himself in an affair with a Japanese client.
Love on the Run concluded the series five years before Truffaut's death in 1984, although he claimed it was the final installment. Its story shows Antoine's marriage still intact although he continues to seek extramarital company elsewhere. The film imposes a flashback structure composed of clips from the other films which doesn't really work, but the new material is presented in the same vein as the others and is generally entertaining.