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FRANCOIS Truffaut's Stolen Kisses begins with a shot of the Cinemathique in Paris and is dedicated to Henri Langlois, the popular man who runs it. And indeed the Nouvelle Vague movement in French films owes its existence to the Musee Cinema since most of the men in this movement-Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Erie Rohmer, Jacques Rivette-began their careers as critics for the highly-influential Cahiers du Cinema and have arrived where they are only after a long and detailed study of film history.
Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player, for example, takes much of its style and action form the American gangster film. His Farenbeit 451 is adapted from a second-rate novel and takes after the sci-fi films of the fifties. The Bride Wore Black is a product of Truffaut's consuming interest in the films of Alfred Hitchcock, to whom the film is dedicated and the imitation detracts from the individuality of the film.
Stolen Kisses however, represents the height of Truffaut's unique artistry and save a great deal about what the Nouvelle Vague movement is. The opening shot of the Cinemathique is followed by a panning shot of Paris taken from the Cinematheque across the Seine to the Eeffel Tower. This shot introduces one of the important themes in the film and in the Nouvelle Vague movement-Paris and Parisians. Stolen Kisses is punctuated with unmistakable Parisian landmarks-the Eiffel Tower, the Musee du Cinema. Sacre Coeur a Parisian cafebar a street-cleaning car early in the morning -which serve constantly to remind the viewer of the setting.
From the shot of Paris. Truffaut cuts to lead actor Jean-Picrre Leaud (Godard's Mascudin-Feminin. La Chinoise Truffaut's Four Hundred Blows, Skolimowski's Le Depart) reading Balzac. The use of books is a Novell Vague device which reveals Truffaut's Hundred Blows when twelve-year old Leaud kept a bust of Balzae in his room.
Both Truffaut and Balzac often use Paris as their setting and romanticize urban life. Both have broad visions of radically different assortments of people. Both perceive the absurdity and ?pettiness, but above all the glory of la comedic humaine. They each indulge in totally irrelevant detail, which produces an overall effect of realism. Both have a taste for the melodramatic and both believe that improbable chance plays a large role in the lives of real people.
TRUFFAUT has no urge to make any political or social commentary about the individual vs, society in urban life. His camera is rather a detached but passionate observer of society. The lightness of his treatment provides an underlying optimism in his attitude towards society.
The introduction of all different kinds of really weird people-a magician a violent fag the staff of a private detective agency-affirms Truffaut's positive belief in the uniqueness of every human individual. Institutions-such as the institution for juvenile delinquency in The Four Hundred Blows the System in Fahren?eit 451 and the army in stolen Kisses -which suppress this uniqueness are Truffaut's real enemies.
Truffaut goes out of his way of avoid any kind of tight dramatic construction. Many incidents-such as Antoine's chance meetings on the street with old friends -have no apparent purpose and bear no particular relation to any other part of the film, but are incredibly life-like because of their irrelevance. This looseness of construction is another distinct feature of the Nouvelle Vague. The unimportance of a plot as such allows the director to explore people's relations and the development of their character without having to worry about logical dramatic sequence. It is the experimental reinterpretation of the unity of a film which makes the Nouvelle Vague movement so intriguing, important, and worth keeping up with.
The charm of Stolen Kissen lies in the spontaneous, loose, and entirely convincing performance by Leaud, who plays a young man who is discharged from the army and bounces from one unique situation to another. He is the unassuming and unsuspecting victim of the machinations of some willful force. This force takes on a humorous cast when we see him tumble into bed with various scheming females. The almost careless and carefree use of the camera in Stolen Kisses is intentional and underlines the unpredictable life-style of Antoine Doinel (Leaud).
Truffaut's latest release (not yet seen in the U.S.)- The Siren of Mississippi -retains the loving detachment of his other films. It also signals a kind of return to Jules and Jim. exploring the constantly changing relationship between two people (Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve). The changes in their relationship are frequent, radical, and usually unpredictable.
Truffaut is at his best when he explores people's passions and where they lead them. No matter what framework these passions fill. Truffaut will maintain the romantic lyricism of his past work.-
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