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The Adventures of
Antoine Doinel
Boxed Set:
The 400 Blows, Antoine and Colette, Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board, & Love on the Run

The Adventures of Antoine Doinel
Criterion 5 (reissue), 186, 187, 188 / Street Date April 29, 2003 / 99.95

The 400 Blows
19 / b&w / 2:35 anamorphic 16:9 / 99 min. / Les quatre cents coups
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy
Cinematography Henri Decaë
Film Editor Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte
Original Music Jean Constantin
Written by F. Truffaut and M. Moussy
Directed by Francois Truffaut

Antoine and Colette
1962 / b&w / 2:35 anamorphic 16:9 / 30 min. / episode of Love at Twenty
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Marie-France Pisier, Rosy Varte, Francois Darbon
Cinematography Raoul Coutard
Film Editor Claudine Bouché
Original Music Georges Delerue
Written by Francois Truffaut
Produced by Pierre Roustang
Directed by Francois Truffaut

Stolen Kisses
1968 / color / 1:66 anamorphic 16:9 / 91 min. / Baisers volés
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claude Jade, Delphine Seyrig, Michael Lonsdale, Claire Duhamel
Cinematography Denys Clerval
Production Designer Claude Pignot
Film Editor Agnés Guillemot
Original Music Antoine Duhamel
Written by Francois Truffaut, Claude de Givray and Bernard Revon
Produced by Marcel Berbert
Directed by Francois Truffaut

Bed and Board
1970 / color / 1:66 anamorphic 16:9 / 97 min. / Domicile conjugal
Starring Claude Jade, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Hiroko, Barbara Laage, Daniel Ceccaldi, Claire Duhamel
Cinematography Néstor Almendros
Production Designer Jean Mandaroux
Film Editor Agnés Guillemot
Original Music Antoine Duhamel
Written by Francois Truffaut, Claude de Givray and Bernard Revon
Produced by Marcel Berbert
Directed by Francois Truffaut

Love on the Run
1979 / color / 1:66 anamorphic 16:9 / 95 min. / L'amour en fuite
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claude Jade, Marie-France Pisier, Dani, Dorothée
Cinematography Néstor Almendros
Production Designer Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko
Film Editor Martine Barraqué
Original Music Georges Delerue
Written by Francois Truffaut, Marie-France Pisier, Jean Aurel and Suzanne Schiffman
Produced and Directed by

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Synopsis (beaucoup spoilers):

The 400 Blows: Rebellious young Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is rejected by his mother and treated roughly by his father. Disobedient in school, he's caught in lies until he falls into petty crime with a buddy. He's sent to reform school, but retains his spirit and quietly escapes ... Antoine and Colette: Still in his teens, Antoine lives alone and works at a record factory. At a concert, he falls madly in love with Colette (Marie-France Pisier) and tries to woo her by moving next door. Her parents love him, but Colette's another story ... Stolen Kisses: discharged from the Army almost directly from the stockade, Antoine tries out a number of failed occupations while trying to get things going with girlfriend Christine (Claude Jade). As a detective, he goes to work at a shoe store, but only gets involved with the owner's wife (Delphine Seyrig). Bed and Board: Now married to Christine and expecting a baby, Antoine nevertheless carries on an affair with a Japanese girl while working for an American company. He and Christine separate, then reunite tentatively. Love on the Run: Antoine's divorce with Christine is final, but he's having problems with his adorable new girlfriend, Sabine (Dorothée). He also chases after old flame Colette after a chance sighting at the train station. Then the three women begin to touch bases with one another.

Criterion has pioneered another way to properly present a filmmaker's work: in one boxed set, they've packaged Francois Truffaut's entire Antoine Doinel cycle of pictures, four features and one shorter piece filmed between 1959 and 1979, all starring Jean-Pierre Léaud. They're a remarkable body of work and an excellent introduction to the world of Francois Truffaut. The boxed set is pricey, but it includes 4 features, two Truffaut short subjects, many interview clips and a couple of serious docus on Truffaut as well. And that's not counting the text extras in an accompanying booklet.

The cycle started with a b&w 'scope one-shot in 1959 that impressed the European film community with its originality and became the first film of the French New Wave. Showing his skill with non-actors and children, and a willingness to relax directorial control to allow natural human rhythms into his scenes, Truffaut gave The 400 Blows a documentary look but a sensitive approach. He found a 14 year old actor with a gift for naturalness, and through him expressed many of his own feelings about his own semi-delinquent childhood.

Truffaut needed a subject for his segment of a multi-part omnibus film called Love at Twenty, and decided to return to see what Antoine Doinel was doing in his late teens. Again, the concept was semi-autobiographical, and Truffaut uses his alter-ego's clumsy attempts to interest the ravishing Colette, to tell an almost identical story that happened to him. The account of real young love is surprisingly true-to-life, with young Doinel doing a better job engaging Colette's parents than making a connection with her, and the ending is surprising only for men (like Savant) who, when it comes to romance, can't see the obvious coming. The product of a broken home, Doinel seems more attracted to Colette's healthy family than he is to her.

With Stolen Kisses six years later, Doinel leaves the boundaries of autobiographical cypher to become the center of a coy romantic comedy, complete with soft snowfall and a title song that was a big pop success. Doinel's initial Army problems imitate Truffaut's life, but he's soon ensnarled in a farcical situation of detectives and misbehaving wives more suited to Ernst Lubitsch. He falls madly in love with Claude Jade, the first female we see who returns his wistful, immature affections, and Truffaut constructs a valentine-like film posed somewhere between the epic romanticism of Jacques Demy, and a more realistic appraisal of human behavior.

Bed and Board shows Doinel refusing to act like an adult in adult life, cheating on his wife with an exotic woman and letting himself be caught in lies. It's the least charming and the most painful of the stories, but it's a necessary step in Doinel's path.


The final film, Love on the Run accomplishes a number of things. It sums up and fills in some gaps in the storytelling using flashbacks culled from the older pictures, and all new material. At first this becomes irritating, like the lowbudget 'roundup episode' of a television show, but a fascinating pattern soon emerges. Newly split from Claude Jade, Antoine is ruining his chances with another impossibly lovable female, Sabine, by impulsively chasing after the newly rediscovered Colette. Through the realizations of several characters, we understand that the very real Antoine is probably never going to grow up entirely, but he would have a chance if he just stopped being so dishonest with Sabine. Colette, whose life has gone through its own problems for no fault of her own whatsoever, sees Antoine's shallowness for what it is. Christine has decided that her love for him will just have to be in the past tense. Fortunately, the film's wrapup is hopefully positive, if not certain.

Truffaut made a film called The Man Who Loved Women, about a ladies' man obsessed with his conquests, that might be a closer autobiographical account of a womanizer sans malice. But Antoine Doinel is a more universal image of the young male, insecure and guilty over his desires and needs, who tries everything but honesty in his pursuit of love. Truffaut surely loves the women he hires to act in his films, as each is accorded a special respect and concern. They each get their own little corner of character rights, whereas Jean-Pierre Léaud has the harder job of amusing us with his charm, all the while maintaining the reality of incorrigible selfishness. We can understand why these women love him.

Whatever the setup, we don't need to be Truffaut experts to appreciate these actresses, all of whom reveal fascinating personalities behind their beauty. Delicate Claude Jade is tougher than she looks, and Dorothée, formerly a children's tv host, seems to prove that the techniques of handling kindergartners are also useful with unreliable young men. Marie-France Pisier was a stunning teenager who became a world-class beauty, yet she's the only one in the story with a heavy-responsibility occupation, and a personal history with real tragic weight. In the last film, Truffaut even brings back memories of Doinel's mysterious mother, and introduces through flashbacks another problem female, his wife's best friend, played by Dani of Day for Night. Truffaut fully flexes his enviable skill of creating sympathetic characters. He gets them into an emotionally tangle, without judging them.

Spanning 20 years of French movies, the Doinel cycle starts with the rough b&w of the New Wave and ends up in the caressing colors of Néstor Almendros. Savant's favorite will always be Stolen Kisses, which I saw alone about the time I fell in love with my wife. I'm eager to show it to her now, 30 years later. What a softie.

Criterion's DVD Boxed Set of The Adventures of Antoine Doinel is five DVDs contained in one slip case decorated to resemble an old suitcase - very clever packaging, once again. Antoine and Colette is included with The 400 Blows, so the 5th disc has an earlier Truffaut short subject, Les Mistons along with a list of extras that's exhaustive even by Criterion's recent standard. I've simply reprinted the goodie list below, to avoid error. There's enough audio-visual research material there to satisfy anybody seeking an intimate portrait of the New Wave director.

The transfers are immaculate, with The 400 Blows looking much better here than on the long - out of print original release. Like the reissued Beauty and the Beast, it recycles the old spine number, #5. The soft colors and pleasing tones of the color features are accurately rendered - Stolen Kisses looks better than the print I saw when new.  1

Many of the text extras in the school-notebook styled booklet are essays, notes and treatments by Truffaut himself. He seemed to have mellowed as a critic after becoming a director himself. One statement of his, reprinted in the essays, captures his new-found openness: If one's true nature is to be frivolous, it's pointless trying to make serious, 'important' films when one could be making good frivolous ones. It's a reassuring line to read, before trying to write about a director as important as Truffaut, who had such a good instinct when to be frivolous and when to be serious.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
The Adventures of Antoine Doinel Boxed Set rates:
Movies: Excellent
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Audio commentaries on The 400 Blows by film scholar Brian Stonehill and Truffaut's lifelong friend Robert Lachenay, Les Mistons (1957), Truffaut's 18-minute short, Audio Commentary for Les Mistons by then assistant director and future writing collaborator Claude de Givray, Introduction to Les Mistons by Truffaut historian Serge Toubiana, Rare audition footage of cast members from The 400 Blows, Newsreel footage of Jean-Pierre Leaud at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959, Portrait de Truffaut (1961), a 25-minute documentary about Truffaut, introduction to Stolen Kisses by Serge Toubiana, Archival newsreel footage of the "Langlois Affair", Newsreel footage of Truffaut's impassioned rally to shut down the 1968 Cannes Film Festival in support of striking students and workers, Promotional spot featuring Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut appealing for public support of Henri Langlois, Rare footage of Truffaut and co-writer Bernard Revon discussing their notes, Interview footage of Truffaut speaking about Antoine Doinel and the decision to continue the Doinel series with Stolen Kisses, Interview footage of Truffaut discussing the entire Doinel cycle, Excerpt from a 1979 TV show featuring Truffaut, Theatrical trailers for The 400 Blows, Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board, and Love on the Run, Booklet featuring Truffaut's writings, notes, script treatments, interviews with Truffaut, and more.
Packaging: 5 discs and booklet in Card and plastic folders in card box
Reviewed: April 28, 2003


1. Stolen Kisses has been available, I think, only as an English-dubbed Columbia version all this time, so seeing it with the proper language (and hearing that familiar Trenet title tune) now has an extra thrill factor. (A Correction from Wade & Judy, 4.29/03: . . . Stolen Kisses was available from Fox Lorber Films, on DVD, in a French with English subtitles version . . . it was a not so good transfer, as were all of their films in the "Antoine Doinel" DVD series . . .)

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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