Banned from the 1958 Cannes Festival for slagging off French cinema, François Truffaut retaliated by shooting his autobiographical debut in under two months. In 1960 it won the director's prize at the Festival, and it is the film which ensured the Nouvelle Vague could no longer be ignored. As Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen verifies, its influence still pervades. The title (Les Quatre Cents Coups) is colloquial French for "raising merry hell".
It follows the travails of 12-year-old Antoine (played with prescient wonder by Jean-Pierre Léaud) with a negligent mother and stepfather. School's a nightmare, and when he tells his teachers his mother's dead and then steals a typewriter, his callous folks send him to a juvenile delinquency centre. He runs away and, in another move echoed by Loach's film, gets soulful on the beach...
Kurosawa called it "one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen": along with Hiroshima Mon Amour, it rewrote the rulebook.
Rating: 5 / 10
Retail dvd (tartan video, widescreen)