Director: François Truffaut
Writer: François Truffaut and Marcel Berbert
Cinematography: Denys Clerval
by Jon Cvack
I couldn’t recall a Truffaut film I didn’t like until I saw this one. I had really enjoyed Bed and Board, then discovering that it was part of Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel series, which expands across five films, starting with The 400 Blows, moving onto the thirty minute and change short Antoine and Collette (which I haven’t seen), to Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board, and ending with Love on the Run twenty years later. They all involve the actor Antoine Doinel (the main boy from The 400 Blows - played by the same actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud, which I had my doubts about being true, as I recalled they didn’t look at all similar, leaving me to think that maybe it’s time to revisit The 400 Blows, and I now that I know I can get a double feature deal between this and Antoine and Collette via the Criterion Double Feature it’s all looking on the up and up).
So being on the fourth film in the series and with the previous one being the only one I’ve seen within the last ten years, I was expecting another tale that would continue the more colorful approach I saw in Bed and Board, in which Doinel played a recently married man with a child on the way, suddenly tempted by other women. It was an easy and accessible story of a man struggling to move into adulthood, yet had that unique Truffaut palette.
Antoine is discharged from the Army because he’s useless. He becomes a night clerk at a motel, until he’s fire when a woman’s husband trashes the place upon discovering his wife’s infidelity. Antoine’s then fired and becomes a Private Investigator, acting as a double agent at an expensive shoe store while he researches why everyone hates the owner who hired the Private Detectives. Antoine is seeing a nice and beautiful girl, whose dad is helping him find work, but he then gets involved with the Shoe Store Owner’s beautiful wife, losing the job, moving him to television repair. And that’s about it.
The problem is that the narrative in Stolen Kisses revolves Antoine Doinel's inability to find and keep a job. Just out of curiosity, but not all that interested, I checked out the supplements and came across a short three minute French essay on the film. It mentioned how Truffaut was dealing with a lot beyond the film, with the Cahiers du Cinema’s president resigning, forcing Truffaut into the middle of a leadership change, which led him to eventually call for a boycott of Cannes and other major film festivals. I didn’t really understand all of the politics, and while I’m interested in the history, it made Stolen Kisses loose narrative make a bit more sense. The essayist mentioned how given the 1968 release, with revolution piping through the streets, Stolen Kisses was a very much a protest film, about Antoine’s alienation and inability to find a job where he can excel. It was an interesting perspective, but at the end of the day the movie was boring, and this Marxist analysis just makes me think it’s attempt at depth was superficial on account of Truffaut’s public distractions.
Allegedly Truffaut’s public turmoil led him to lean more on improvisation and it shows. The scenes felt much more exploratory, as though gambling on something interesting getting discovered during the edit rather than trying to construct a solid narrative. It functions very much as an “...and then” film, with Collette hopping from one imbroglio to another. It felt more dependent on strange and odd situations, with Antoine not feeling as real as in Bed and Board (and what I remember of The 400 Blows). I was surprised to see it gathered an Oscar Nomination compared to his far stronger and other films that were often overlooked. It’s too quirky - the type of the film that wants more a feel than a meaning. It’s worth checking out for the Doinel Series, but falls on the lower end of the Truffaut’s filmography.
BELOW: A pretty boring scene, but given that this is how most of the film plays, offers a taste
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