One of the greatest child performances in film history: Jean-Pierre Léaud’s audition for ‘The 400 Blows.’ New, restored high-definition digital film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack is out now on Criterion.
Is it true that you placed an ad in the newspaper France Soir to recruit the boy who would play the hero of ‘The 400 Blows’?
Yes. I didn’t like the idea of finding a kid on the street and asking his parents, “Would you let him make a movie with me?” For this first feature film of mine about children, I wanted the children to be willing—both the children and their parents. So I used the ad to get them to come to a studio near the Champs-Elysées, where I was doing 16-mm. screen tests every Thursday. I saw a number of boys, one of whom was Jean-Pierre Léaud. He was more interesting than all the rest, more intense, more frantic even. He really, really wanted the part, and I think that touched me. I could feel during the shoot that the story improved, that the film became better than the screenplay, thanks to him. —François Truffaut’s Last Interview
My partner in crime filmschoolthrucommentaries compiled virtually every camera movement in François Truffaut’s ‘The 400 Blows.’ —Movements: The 400 Blows + analysis
Notebook containing the first draft of the screenplay for ‘The 400 Blows’ (plus Truffaut searches for a title for his first feature film in “François Truffaut at Work” by Carole Le Berre, New York: Phaidon, 2005, p. 26):
‘Looking for Truffaut’ (2009) — a documentary charting the trajectory of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. “This documentary probes into the director François Truffaut, who lived a life as remarkable as his films. Originally spurned by the French film establishment for his outspoken views, he went on to win best director at the Cannes Film Festival with his debut ‘The 400 Blows,’ change the face of cinema in France and across the world with his New Wave contemporaries, and enjoy unprecedented success among audiences and critics alike. An artist of major importance and influence, this film looks at the man behind the movies and the reasons behind his enduring legacy.”
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