Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My favourite clothespin vi: wearing the day as one's own

Jean-Pierre Léaud
Henri Decaë, photo
François Truffaut


              Antoine Doinel boosted a machine
              à écrire from his adoptive father's 
              office, the only one there was, and 
              sped with it, hunched over in strides 
              that burst like goblets on the stony 
              stair to the lunchtime street, his 
              classmate waiting anxiously: to shock 
              a flock of pigeons still exploding from 
              a gutter as he comes to us in flight.

              There is no saying some things.

              Until its final frame, for which the
              shot above is a preparation - like
              David Lean's speck in the desert dis-
              tance for Omar Sharif - the dominant
              signature of this film is that of the
              hurry. Yet beneath this pace a dialectic
              struggle between expulsion and retention,
              effacement and treasuring is continuous
              and elegantly momentous, on the wearing
              and bearing of time. Now, in moments,
              the rhetorical machine will stop, and
              there it will be.

Les Quatre Cents Coups
Les Films du Carrosse©


  1. But the machine will start up again.
    (Nice link.)

  2. In the old Grove Press edition of the original screenplay (noting the recent passing of Grove's very generous publisher), the "theft" scene is beautifully phased in still photographs, which ring out with great clarity in the DVD from USA's "Criterion." I don't believe the extraordinary eruption we see here is the least bit artificial; it feels more explosive, more eloquent than the notorious bomb squad sequence in the recent American movie of some note, "The Hurt Locker." And, to think so much of this was done, hand-held before steadi-cam, and in cinemascope, is to put one in mind of Ginger Rodgers' confession that she didn't really do anything better than Fred Astaire, but that she did it in high heels and backwards.

    In the matter of François Truffaut, it simply feels to me that critical appreciation flows from an original awe, time and again, at the sympathy of the original vision.