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The 400 Blows, Directed by François Truffaut

Les quatre cents coups, Cocinor, May 4, 1959 (France)

Screenplay: François Truffaut and Marcel Moussy

Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, and Claire Maurier

Tu étais mort. In repose with your dead eyes open, you were beautiful and free on the banks of the lasting ocean. Beat but not beaten and free within your own skin, you were dwarfed by the enormity of the whole wide world.

Looking closer, I saw it, hiding behind the mask of frozen youth. It was in the minuscule but menacing reflection in your eyes. Was it fear? Confusion? Loneliness? Or maybe at that very moment you were relieved and nothing more, fulfilled in your great escape.

In The 400 Blows, François Truffaut freeze-frames the story at the perfect moment. This money shot is a perplexing image of a boy looking directly into the camera. Interpretations are sure to abound in the discussion of what Antoine is feeling or how Truffaut is able to infuse so much mystery and intrigue into the single frozen frame.

Projecting the illusion of movement, motion pictures changed the world and nothing less. Giant silver screen canvases framed the magic of moving targets through space and time. A wondrous new art form was born.

Subtracting movement, we are taken back to the confines of a painting or a photograph’s still shot. The juxtaposition makes it easier to see that without movement, the odds narrow in capturing the full weight of emotions or motives of the subjects or the details of what came before, as well as possible hints as to what might come next.

In Truffaut’s still frame, I see nostalgia and the ache of innocence lost. I think there may also be fear, weighted by the reality of being completely alone in the world for better or for worse. It is an unforgettable moment in an unforgettable film.

Last night, I saw a modern take on the recurring theme of how difficult it can be to fight back. But really, what other choice is there? No matter how quickly things change within the rushing tide of a rapidly-evolving world, damn it if some things are destined to stay stuck in the mud. Hate is not going anywhere. Moreover, it can hide easier than ever within the the cloak of its own triteness. Currently, it goes something like this: Hatas gonna hate.

Intolerance will always find a way to try and snuff out the odd peculiarities of individualism. So when all else fails, you have to fight back. Fight the good fight. You can even fight cliché with everlasting cliché: the truth really can set you free.