Monday, January 18, 2010

Culture and Crass

The 400 Blows - 1959 - Dir: François Truffaut
Location: The Comfort of My House - Criterion Blu-Ray

Here is one of those movies I saw the cover art for on the Criterion DVD release for so long I just had to see it eventually. I had no real idea what it was about, save for the brief description read on the box, or why I should see it other than it was Truffaut's first film, one of the beginnings of the French New Wave cinematic movement and Criterion gave it a release. This is usually a strong indicator. Doesn't mean I will love every Criterion release I see, but they are there for a reason. Well, except maybe for Armageddon or Chasing Amy. Why they hell were they given the time of day with this company?

I was pleasantly surprised by everything this film has to offer and really glad I finally took the time to watch it with the new Blu-Ray release. I think the original French title suites the film much better that what we Americans are given. Les qautre cents coups is a form of a French idiom meaning "to raise hell," and that is exactly what our main character does. Antoine is not the best brightest student but he also deals with mostly unresponsive and oblivious parents. It's not that he gets away with everything they are just oblivious to what he, or any child for that matter, needs. Based much on Truffaut's actual childhood we see the young man running away and turning to petty crimes and theft to get by. Eventually he is caught when trying to right some wrongs on his part and that's when things really turn grim for Antoine.

This film has a lot to say about a child's view of life and what he would do left to his own devices. I could go on at length talking about the significance of certain scenes but that would do a disservice to any of you who have yet to see this milestone film. Don't worry about it being all too serious there are plenty of light hearted moments to induce laughter. Many of these revolve around Antoine in school and his mischievous classmates, like a great scene involving all the boys running through the streets with a coach and they each peel off from the group unbeknown to the whistle blowing adult at the head of the crew.

While I haven't seen anything else by Truffaut he shows great promise here and I hear it only gets better. Not to mention that the exploits of Antoine are revisited by Truffaut over the next twenty years in a short and three more features, and Jean-Pierre Léaud plays him every time. I will definitely be checking these films out in the future.

I highly recommend film lovers check out The 400 Blows. Not only is it a milestone but a wonderful story as well. Pick up the Criterion Blu-Ray here, or the DVD here. You can also get the Criterion set with all of the films about Antoine here.

This is America, Part II - 1977 - Dir: Romano Vanderbes
Location: The Comfort of My House

Alright here's another one you probably won't be able to find very easily and it's a shame because it's awesome! This is an American mondo film full of 70s underground insanity. For those who don't know, mondo films are basically exploitation documentaries. They mostly started with the Italian film Mondo Cane (1962) and they show weird and, sometimes, unimaginable practices around the world with the intention to shock. Many of the early films in the Italian mondo series relied heavily on depicting the torturing and death of animals. Some like the Shocking Asia series (which I finally have all of and will soon be re-watching the first couple and finally seeing the others) show you a side of the continent you've never seen.

Luckily, this American made series does not have the harsh death but it focuses more on zany things and sex. After I watched the first in the series of three I was blown away by all the awesome contained. While the second film is not as good as its predecessor it still packs plenty of laughs and jaw-dropping moments. There are pet hotels, nude car washes, male strippers, fatty chasers, disco clubs with Jell-O bathing, S&M gear manufacturers and an electrocution. Each one of these is just as ridiculous as it sounds, but you just cannot stop watching. One of my favorite parts is a bunch of women eating at an erotic bakery. I couldn't stop laughing.

All of this is narrated with the very serious sounding voice of Norman Rose. You may not know him by name but he was a famous voice-over guy who is probably best known for many of the Jaun Valdez coffee commercials. The words he reads and the voice in which they are read only add to the hilarity.

Can't wait to watch the third in the series, made years later in 1990.


btsjunkie said...

Testing testing 1, 2, 3!!!


I was wanting to say that I'm really interested in the THIS IS AMERICA series. I'm putting that on my SOON list!

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