Director: François Truffaut
Writer:François Truffaut, Marie-France Pisier, Jean Aurel, Suzanne Schiffman
Cinematographer: Néstor Almendros
Producer: Marcel Berbert, François Truffaut
by Jon Cvack
Love on the Run closes out the Antoine Doinel feature film series, which I didn’t know was a series until I finished Bed and Board (1970). It's a far more experimental film than the others, relying on both original flashbacks from the first four films in the series and flashbacks shot for Love on the Run specifically, where even in the Criterion Bonus Features, Truffaut admits it’s not a very good film, progressing Antoine Doinel more into the shape of a cartoon than an actual character.
The story picks up nearly a decade after Bed and Board, where Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is now cheating on his wife Christine (Claude Jade) with her best friend Lillian (Dani; a famous French singer, thus the singular name) along with bumping into Colette from the second film (Marie-France Pisier), now a lawyer. Antoine has gotten a job as a proofreader and has written a fairly autobiographical novel about most of the women from the first four films, including Colette, who then confronts Antoinel, thus kickstarting another affair, all while he divorces Christine. The women all end up engaging with one another to learn who Antoine actually was and who he loved, providing one of the most cringey examples of Bechdel test failure; as the women linger on and on about Antoine and his many foibles and charm rather than entering into any meaningful conversation with each other.
What makes it so hard to bear is that Antoine Doinel is one of the most unlikeable characters in the history of cinema. For as much as I might laugh or smile, this guy often lies, insults the intelligence of all his partners, and is ruthlessly self-seeking. As Colette declares on the train, Antoine appears incapable of satisfaction with anything beyond the chase; growing bored with the women, as though competing to see how many others he can get away with; worst part being that he’s attracted to nice girls who fail to see this incorrigible selfishness.
Truffaut has admitted that Doinel is a version of himself, though just as John Updike had Harry Angstrom, or Philip Roth had Nathan Zuckerman, both as the far darker versions of themselves, Antoine Doinel feels like a character born from Truffaut’s worst punched up personality traits that allowed for this terrible person to graze the screen. Coincidentally I’m around the same age as Doinel and am positive that if I got to know this person I would hate him.
Having learned about the series so late, I was surprised to learn that The 400 Blows (1959) kicked it off. Even though I remember little beyond the closing freeze frame, I recall it as a story of rebellion, and although Antoine Doinel is played by the same person, it feels so different in hindsight. I’m not sure if I’m wrong or right, and it makes me excited to return to the film. I’m hoping he’s a better person and maybe it’ll justify how he devolves into such a narcissist. If Love on the Run accomplishes anything, by using so many flashbacks, it made me understand how long time has spanned, as as I first saw The 400 Blows and Stolen Kisses back in college, nearly a decade ago. It made me want to return to the films, having faith that maybe how I feel about Doinel across the series will evolve over the next ten years.
BELOW: Slim pickings on YT for this film, so here's Truffaut on the auteur theory
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