Typically light fare from the master of French Lite, Francois Truffaut. Many have hailed this movie as a masterful and poignant treatment of “young love.” It is not. It’s just a story about an inept goofball, struggling to make a go of it at various professions while failing to make an emotional commitment with a young woman. Jean-Pierre Laud is such a charismatic and charming presence on-screen that he alone can make us forgive the moral leeway and comic indulgences that Truffaut perpetrates. Antoine Doinel — and I realize he’s Truffaut’s alter ego — frequents prostitutes and has never met a woman whose sexual advances he’s refused — including the attractive socialite-wife of his shoe store employer. He’s just your typically shy, lonely and charmingly self-effacing misfit — the kind the women, if you live in Truffaut’s world especially, love to pursue.
So where’s the sense of struggle and compromise here? Everything is hunky-dory in Truffaut’s Paris — a city without darkness, true despair and suffering, all of which we need an unstinting dash of in order for a story and a character of any worth to truly develop. Still, this is fun fluffy stuff. Of all the French filmmakers of this era, Truffaut is the one who truly offends me. He’s far too full of himself for any humility to shine through in his work. Everything feels false, a pretense, existing either as an “homage to Hollywood” genres (something that really irks me about the French New Wave) or as dippy, maudlin romantic nonsense, all in the service of Truffaut’s narcissism.
Directed by: François Truffaut
Written by: François Truffaut, Claude de Givray, Bernard Revon
Cast: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Delphine Seyrig, Claude Jade, Michael Lonsdale, Catherine Lutz