Monday, January 4, 2010

Stolen Kisses

Baisers volés (Stolen Kisses), 1968
Dir: Francois Truffaut
January 3, 2010

So after trying his hand at Hitchcock, Truffaut goes back to the character that jump-started his career in the first place, Antoine Doinel. In 400 Blows (1959), Antoine was a neglected kid who started to get into trouble and ended up in Juvi. In Antoine and Collette (1962), his first love at 17 rejects him for an older guy.
With only a slight backdrop of the political unrest in France in 1968 running a current through the film, Doinel is now a military drop-out, dishonorably discharged from the Army and released to a future of petty jobs (hotel clerk, private investigator, shoe boy, TV repairman) and awkward romantic yearnings, in effect, the same boy we saw stealing a typewriter in 1959, only older, and more curious. It’s obvious that Truffaut feels for the character (and J-P Leaud, who is used much differently here than in Godard’s Masculin Feminin two years earlier, but that’s more about the differences in the directors at this point in their careers than anything) a certain kinship, guiding the boy through humiliation (calling an older woman he is infatuated with "Mr." and then running away) and sexual experimentation (having one night stand with same woman, who is his client's wife) with a tender gaze that only hints at the New Wave’s, and it's successors (uh, Rushmore (1998) anyone?), penchant for ironic realism. The film can kind of get caught up in Truffaut's love of cinema cliches, like the romantic slapstick of a terrible private eye (seriously, if you've seen that show on HBO, "Bored to Death," with Max Fischer and Zack Gaf, you know now exactly where they got the idea) or the need for the sinister stalker (who doesn't end up being so sinister), but that rarely gets in the way of the fact that it flows with the true rhythms of life; that people do stupid things, horrible things, and occasionally good things. Antoine tries really hard to get back with Christine (Claude Jade), his flame before the army, but still will visit a prostitute from time to time (and not be too pleased when they refuse to kiss or won't take off their sweaters). He tries to play it cool with her, but eventually he tries to forcibly make-out with her, and like Collette was when he was 17, she does not dig it. We later see Christine giving her parents excuses and sneaking out the back when Antoine comes calling. Once he becomes infatuated with the older woman (Delphine Seyrig, the "extraordinary woman" in the pic below), he stops coming to see her, so a clearly "playing hard to get" Christine wonders what went wrong, and goes seeking out Antoine. He totally cold shoulders her, and tells her that he "does not admire her." So after the affair (which causes him to get fired, his third time in the film), he ends up as a TV Repairman. Christine breaks her TV on purpose, and when he comes to fix it, though somewhat annoyed that he was the one sent there, they end up in bed together. This all sets up this stunning ending, where the newly engaged couple are walking in the park, and are approached by the sinister stalker who has been watching Christine throughout, who, rather than do something, well, sinister, professes his love for her. He describes his love as "definitive" and unlike the "temporary" love of "temporary people." When he walks away, Christine explains that the man must be mad. Antoine, recognizing similarities in much of his own previous behavior, admits, "He must be". Woah. How good is that? I seriously love these messy coming-of-age stories, especially when Truffaut is in complete control. This doesn't leave you with the devastating freeze-frame that 400 Blows did, but it's similar noncommittal ending leaves Antoine in the only place he can be; yearning, awkward, in between.


No comments: