The 400 Blows
This film is where the French New Wave began. François Truffaut’s unpretentious, deeply felt, mostly autobiographical tale of outcast-adolescent rebellion still seems like a revelation even after nearly half a century. Here, 12-year-old Antoine (Jean-Pierre Léaud) contends with his cranky mother (Claire Maurier), distracted stepfather (Albert Rémy) and capricious teacher (Guy Decomble), not to mention a life of poverty, by ditching school (for the cinema, natch), running away from home and running afoul of the law. The results are heartbreaking. Truffaut’s style is both breezy and self-assured, just right for accumulating an exquisite richness of emotional detail without ever sentimentalizing. This should be required viewing for today’s droves of would-be memoirsts in film or any other medium, and otherwise is simply a must for anybody who likes great movies.