Children As Center of Gravity

“My favorite Rossellini film is Germany Year Zero [1947], probably because I have a weakness for movies that take childhood, or children, as their subject. Also because Rossellini was the first to depict children truthfully, almost documentary-style, on film. He shows them as serious and pensive—more so than the adults around them—not like picturesque little figures or animals. The child in Germany Year Zero is quite extraordinary in his restraint and simplicity. This was the first time in the cinema that children were portrayed as the center of gravity, while the atmosphere around them is the one that’s frivolous.”

François Truffaut

 
 

Jean-Pierre Léaud and François Truffaut, at Cannes Film Festival, 1966

 
 

French director and screenwriter François Truffaut on the set of his movie L’Argent de poche (Small Change). Photos by Christian Simonpietri, August 1975

 
 

L’Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child), 1970

 
 

From birth François Truffaut was thrown into an undesired situation. As he was born out of wedlock, his birth had to remain a secret because of the social stigma associated with illegitimacy. He was registered as “A child born to an unknown father” in the hospital records. He was looked after by a nurse for an extended period of time. His mother eventually married and her husband Roland gave his surname, Truffaut, to François.

Although he was legally accepted as a legitimate child, his parents did not accept him. The Truffauts had another child who died shortly after birth. This experience saddened them greatly and as a result they despised François because of the memory of regret that he represented. He was an outcast from his earliest years, dismissed as an unwanted child. François was sent to live with his grandparents. It wasn’t until François’s grandmother’s death before his parents took him in, much to the dismay of his own mother. The experiences with his mother were harsh. He recalled being treated badly by her but he found comfort in his father’s laughter and overall spirit. The relationship with Roland was more comforting than the one with his own mother. François had a very depressing childhood after moving in with his parents. They would leave him alone whenever they would go on vacations. He even recalled memories of being alone during Christmas. Being left alone forced François into a sense of independence, he would often do various tasks around the house in order to improve it such as painting or changing the electric outlets. Sadly, these kind gestures often resulted in a catastrophic event causing him to get scolded by his mother. His father would mostly laugh them off.

Truffaut was married to Madeleine Morgenstern from 1957 to 1965, and they had two daughters, Laura (born 1959) and Eva (born 1961). Madeleine was the daughter of Ignace Morgenstern, managing director of one of France’s largest film distribution companies, and was largely responsible for securing funding for Truffaut’s first films. While he had affairs with many of his leading ladies – in 1968 he was the fiancé of Claude Jade – Truffaut and actress Fanny Ardant lived together from 1981 to 1984 and had a daughter, Joséphine Truffaut (born 28 September 1983).

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To Raise Hell

 

Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) is a 1959 French drama film, the debut by director François Truffaut; it stars Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, and Claire Maurier. One of the defining films of the French New Wave, it displays many of the characteristic traits of the movement. Written by Truffaut and Marcel Moussy, the film is about Antoine Doinel, a misunderstood adolescent in Paris who is thought by his parents and teachers to be a troublemaker. Filmed on location in Paris and Honfleur, it is the first in a series of five films in which Léaud plays the semi-autobiographical character.

Besides being a character study, the film is an exposé of the injustices of the treatment of juvenile offenders in France at the time.

Truffaut made four other films with Léaud depicting Antoine at later stages of his life. He meets his first love, Colette, in Antoine and Colette, which was Truffaut’s contribution to the 1962 anthology Love at Twenty. He falls in love with Christine Darbon (Claude Jade) in Stolen Kisses. He marries Christine in Bed and Board, but the couple have separated in Love on the Run.

 

 

The semi-autobiographical film reflects events of Truffaut’s and his friends’ lives. In style, it expresses Truffaut’s personal history of French film, with references to other works—most notably a scene borrowed wholesale from Jean Vigo‘s Zéro de conduite. Truffaut dedicated the film to the man who became his spiritual father, André Bazin, who died just as the film was about to be shot.

Filmmakers Akira Kurosawa, Luis Buñuel, Satyajit Ray, Jean Cocteau, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Richard Lester and Norman Jewison have cited The 400 Blows as one of their favorite movies. Kurosawa called it “one of the most beautiful films that I have ever seen”.

The English title is a straight translation of the French but misses its meaning, as the French title refers to the idiom “faire les quatre cents coups”, which means “to raise hell”. And that’s precisely what the main character does. On the first prints in the United States, subtitler and dubber Noelle Gilmore gave the film the title Wild Oats, but the distributor did not like that and reverted it to The 400 Blows. Before seeing it, some people thought the film covered the topic of corporal punishment.

 

What Remains of Our Love?

 

QUE RESTE-T-IL DE NOUS AMOURS?

Ce soir le vent qui frappe à ma porte
Me parle des amours mortes
Devant le feu qui s’ éteint
Ce soir c’est une chanson d’ automne
Dans la maison qui frissonne
Et je pense aux jours lointains

{Refrain:}

Que reste-t-il de nos amours
Que reste-t-il de ces beaux jours
Une photo, vieille photo
De ma jeunesse
Que reste-t-il des billets doux
Des mois d’ avril, des rendez-vous
Un souvenir qui me poursuit
Sans cesse

Bonheur fané, cheveux au vent
Baisers volés, rêves mouvants
Que reste-t-il de tout cela
Dites-le-moi

Un petit village, un vieux clocher
Un paysage si bien caché
Et dans un nuage le cher visage
De mon passé

Les mots les mots tendres qu’on murmure
Les caresses les plus pures
Les serments au fond des bois
Les fleurs qu’on retrouve dans un livre
Dont le parfum vous enivre
Se sont envolés pourquoi?

{au Refrain}

 

_________________________________

 

WHAT REMAINS OF OUR LOVE?

Tonight the wind that slaps at my door
Speaks to me of past love affairs
Before the fire that wanes
Tonight it’s a song of autumn
In the house that shivers
And I think of days long ago

{Refrain: }

What remains of our love?
What remains of these beautiful days?
A photo, an old photo
Of my youth
What remains of the love letters
Of months in April, of rendez-vous
A memory that follows me
Incessantly

Withered good times, wind in hair
Stolen kisses, moving dreams
What remains of all that?
Tell me

A village, an old hometown
( A countryside so well hidden
And in a cloud the dear face
Of my past)

The words the tender words that one murmurs
The caresses most pure
The vows deep in the woods
The flowers one finds again in a book
The perfume of which inebriates you
That disappeared why?

{Refrain}

 

Que reste-t-il de nos amours? (What Remains of Our Love?) is a French popular song, with music by Léo Chauliac & Charles Trenet and lyrics by Charles Trenet.

The song was first recorded by Charles Trenet in 1943. It was used extensively in the François Truffaut’s film Stolen Kisses (1968), its French title, Baisers volés, having been taken from the song’s lyrics. The song was also used in the films Iris (Richard Eyre, 2001), Something’s Gotta Give“(Nancy Meyers, 2003) and Ces amours-là (Claude Lelouch, 2010). The song is best known to English-speaking audiences as I Wish You Love, with new lyrics by Albert A. Beach: introduced in 1957 by Keely Smith as the title cut of her solo debut album, I Wish You Love would become one of Smith’s signature songs.
 

To listen Charles Trenet’s song, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl