The Adventures of Antoine Doinel: The 400 Blows (1959)

To understand The 400 Blows, it’s necessary to start in 1932, twenty-seven years before the film premiered. On February 6th of that year, a young Frenchwoman named Janine de Monferrand gave birth to a son whom she named François. Neither Monferrand nor her family wished to deal with the stigma of unwed motherhood, so she placed the baby in the care of a wet nurse. Upon her marriage to Roland Truffaut in November 1933, her new husband gave François his surname, but the child remained with the wet nurse until almost age three, when his maternal grandmother realized that he was languishing and decided to take him in. He stayed with her until her death in 1942, at which point he went to live with his mother and stepfather for the first time. The transition was not a smooth one. François Truffaut felt unwanted and unloved. He drifted into petty crime, was sent to the Paris Observation Center for Minors, joined the army, went AWOL, spent time in military prison. It all might have ended very badly indeed if it hadn’t been for one saving grace: his love of movies.

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