Monday, August 11, 2008

Kind of a Movie Review #1: The 400 Blows (1959)

I watch a lotta movies by myself...that’s the kinda guy I am, like Pee-Wee Herman said, a loner, a rebel...or, like Van Gogh said,

One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way.

Yes, I started out a mere couple of sentence fragments ago talking about watching movies by myself and here I am, already having drifted on to Vincent Van Gogh who, lonely as he was, never watched any movies...bear with me....what ties it all together is Truffaut’s 400 Blows, or, and the reasons I was glad I watched it alone, and therefore didn’t have to talk to anybody afterwards—no, not one of those socially awkward situations like where you see a movie about an alcoholic destroying himself with a friend who is himself an unacknowledged alcoholic who is also, in an unacknowledged way, destroying himself—though I’ve been there, too—no, it’s more a matter of...let me start at the beginning....

It's one of those movies I’d always heard about, one of those Euro-classics that are supposed to be so sublime, that, often as not, leave me cold...with some exceptions...the Bicycle Thief...or My Life to Live...or Un Chien Andalou...anyway, I started watching it and, while finding it pretty good, was also thinking...how the hell did this just pretty good movie get on all those critics’ top ten of all times lists?...which of course brought me into the usual orgy of egotism and self-loathing as the movie kept playing and I debated internally whether they were all wrong or I was...and then...that teardrop...gotta admit that was moving...though it still didn't seem to...oh, wait a second...the ending...that one overpowering final shot....

I’m not gonna say how it ended. Or what that shot was. You'll have to see it yourself. That's why I'm writing this: so you'll see it yourself. But I am gonna say it hit me deeper than I really expected any movie to at this point in my life...brought me into some of the loneliest, most wounded, most helpless places, with everything that’s been lost and everything that never was...kinda like that Neil Young song says...

in my mind I still need a place to go...and yet...chains are locked and tied across the door.....

I don’t know if it had that effect on any of those film critics...if they did I really doubt they’d admit it...hell, critical theory was invented so nobody’d have to admit to feelings like that...but I had work I need to do before I went to bed...and there was just no way...though there’d been a rash of muggings in my neighborhood including gun shots, I had to go for a late night walk...wasn't fully recovered for days, though I certainly can’t say it’ll have that effect on anybody else, either. But, then, that’s kinda the point...that profound sense of isolation...which, paradoxically, creates a strange connection...between Francois Truffaut, Vincent Van Gogh, Neil Young and me...and, yeah, I guess those film critics, too....

The enchanting, and sometimes terrifying, thing is that the world can be so many different things to so many different souls. That it can be, and is, all these things at one and the same time.
Henry Miller

13 comments:

goldengoddess said...

Now you've got me wondering just what is so moving about this movie. Will definitely have to rent this one. Thanks for the review, and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Grumpus said...

That van Gogh comment about the wisps of smoke was my thesis for a high school essay that won me 400 smackaroos towards me college edjimication.

I would like to see the 400 Blows just for this final shot you speak of. I am all about seeing movies for one particular instance!

I am not a sophisticated film viewer but in one of my favorite movies (um, "Mad Max") there's a scene I love because it radiates the same sense of isolation you speak of here (totally unintended of course, this was not a movie given to subtle strokes)...anyhow, there's a part where Toecutter puts his arm around Johnny the Boy, both hip deep in the ocean, and they sort of wade off and become blurry in this glittering, temporal glare of the setting Australian sun. My throat gets all lumpy at that scene. Which is such nonsense.

froginnorthgeorgia.com said...

Have you seen Jean de Florette? That's a real tear jerker.

Kirat Singh said...

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Lea said...

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The cup is half full of something I don't like said...

dr jay

Coffee shop is were bloggers can have discussions with other bloggers. Mostly it is newer people trying to get attention.

here's it's link
http://groups.google.com/group/blogger-help-share/topics

mantiz said...

wow that quote from van gogh was priceless!
nice review, i might go rent that movie sometime. keep bloggin :)

Arnold Layne said...

That awkwardness that you were talking about reminds me very much of when I went to go see Juno with a friend of mine and how awkward it was after. The only movie that's ever struck me the way you described - or at least brought tears to my eyes - was that scene in Cast Away when Tom Hanks loses Wilson in the ocean. That's how sentimental I am.

P.S.
Vincent Van Gogh is my favorite person to quote.

Gypsy at Heart said...

I know where you are coming from on this take of le quatre cent coups. The first and ONLY time I watched it, I wondered as you did up until the very end what all the fuss was about and then, I thunked me one right in the solar plexus. Took a while to recover from it. Didn't go there again.

Colour My World said...

You've just convinced me to see this film.
I also watch a lot of films by myself - I believe that is the best way to do it really, mostly because you can have a good cry or laugh without anyone looking at you strangely... especially when you cry where everyone laughs and vice versa.
Oh and thank you for stopping by earlier =)

ecko4inc said...

Yes, a wonderful movie. I was however taken by the film the whole way through and enjoyed the ride.
One of my favourite scenes was when the kids were taken on a walk by the phys ed teacher through the streets and the boys peeled off in groups as the teacher led the way, ignorant as to what was going on behind his back. Great shots from the rooftops. And the final shot is a killer.
And the frog in north georgia is right - Jean de Florette is a tearful masterpiece.

svasti said...

Hmpff! I'm just a tad jealous you have cinemas that play such interesting old movies. I think I'd have to hunt my way through a bunch of DVD shops cool enough to stock movies like this.

There's an Australian movie called 'The Book of Revelation' - its about a man who is kidnapped by three women and sexually abused. Sounds like every man's idea of heaven, right? Not quite...

That movie was both compelling and horrendous viewing for me - something in Tom Long's performance struck at the heart of the experience of assault/abuse. Somehow it was made more violent by the gender reversal... I was devestated for weeks and it still burns brightly in my memory.