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Directed by François Truffaut

France 1959 99 mins.

Truffaut’s autobiographical first feature remains for many his best film. Drawing upon his early years as an orphan, Truffaut gives subtle and realistic meaning to the Chinese proverb about the 400 blows of childhood. Jean-Pierre Léaud plays Antoine Doinel, a neglected 12-year-old who rebels against school and escapes to freedom. The second of five films in his “Doinel” cycle, this early French New Wave milestone is one of the most poignant and moving studies of childhood ever put on film—honest, funny, unsentimental, and full of passion—in Truffaut’s words, “to show adolescence as the painful experience that it is.”