Stolen Kisses is the third film in Francois Truffaut’s continuing examination of Antoine Doinel, started so masterfully with the 400 Blows. It’s incredibly impressive as Truffaut not only revisits the character but the actor, Jean-Pierre Leaud, as well seeing him develop as a performer and really see him become a man. Here, we see Antoine develop as a young man, just discharged from the army, as he attempts to find work in Paris.
It’s a somewhat enjoyable romp but feels more like a formless jaunt for Truffaut. Certainly light and airy, with slight comedic spots, but overall, the comedy of the film doesn’t work as well as I’m sure Truffaut had hoped. The episodes in the film feel just like that, episodes. The scenes feel disconnected from each other and the film abruptly ends at an arbitrary point. Though Truffaut populates the film with interesting, offbeat characters, Leaud gives a fine, yet static performance that never pulls the audience into his world or his mindset.
The strength of the actor as a child was his formless expressions and child-like innocence and here, Leaud shows little development and the film ultimately sinks because of that. As an exercise in revisiting an actor and a role over the course of his life is an ultimately interesting one, in practice the film feels as unformed and pointless as regular life does. Without a thematic follow through, the film wanders along at a leisurely pace and never rises above charmingly enjoyable and, ultimately, forgettable.
Doinel comes across more as a sex starved adolescent than a fully formed adult, launching himself into this and that romantic/sexual relationship and maybe that’s the point of the film. Truffaut’s cynicism about love and sex drips from the film but none of it ever rises above a side artifact as we move to this and that relatively amusing interaction or character. There’s a romantic nostalgia at play here for youth and a period in Truffaut’s life that is long gone but that kind of nostalgia can be a trap to any filmmaker. Rather than any type of thoughtful examination, Truffaut treats his audience to a series of hapless, charming misadventures meant to be seen as enjoyable farce rather than the indications of dysfunction that is at the heart of the film’s central character and the people of the film.
- Saturday Night Cinema: Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
- Truffaut’s shorts (cinemaburn.wordpress.com)
- Ranking Every Truffaut Film I’ve Ever Seen (tdylf.com)
- Day 173: The 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959) (365daysoffilms.wordpress.com)
- The Importance of François Truffaut (tdylf.com)
- Google Doodle celebrates filmmaker François Truffaut (slashgear.com)
- The 400 Blows (cinemaburn.wordpress.com)
- Shoot the Piano Player (cinemaburn.wordpress.com)
- Today is Francois Truffaut’s birthday (gointothestory.blcklst.com)
- Truffaut’s shorts (manonmona.wordpress.com)