A quick love letter to the movies

March 13, 2007

I saw Truffaut’s 400 Blows one evening hanging out with a friend. We were preparing for a night out, or just burning time as one frequently does. He had three movies at home from Netflix and without much else doing, we thought we’d check one of them out. I remember he had Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and perhaps some other Japanese flick but I don’t recall why we chose to watch 400 Blows. I hadn’t heard of it before and thus came with no expectations. My friend wandered in and out of the room, only partially attentive to the movie and I remember quite enjoying it. There was a short movie among the DVD extras that followed the central character further on in life and I watched, cringed at, laughed at and enjoyed that as well.

A little later on, someone asked what my favorite movie was and I heard myself saying, “maybe the 400 Blows.” It’s a year or two later and despite never having seen the movie again, that answer stands. When I was younger, before Netflix and my infinitely expanded education in cinema, the Godfather was my stock answer for that question. I still think the Godfather a a marvelous film but it is certainly no longer in the number one spot and I’m definitely less certain there need be a number one spot. I love movies, for their escapism, for the dream worlds they create, for allowing me to see bits of myself exploded into full and amazing characters, for their naive idealism and harsh depictions of reality, for puzzling and dazzling me, making me sad, happy, outraged, unable to contain myself; I fucking love movies. And so I appreciate each for its flaws and its strengths and its accomplishments, whatever those are. I love the Godfather for its tale of men in a man’s world, loyalty and honor and family, while killing people’s horses and shooting them through their glasses. I love Hitchcock and Clint Eastwood and early Eddie Murphy. I love thrillers and comedies, shoot em ups and art house flicks. I fucking love the movies.

And I love Truffaut, for his unhurried filmmaking, for giving me a character I saw so much of myself in and making him interesting and worthy of being watched, for doing an almost plotless movie in which we simply watch a character struggle and grow and be achingly human. A movie about a young who has a rough time of it at home and at school, 400 Blows follows our protagonist as he runs away from home and lives first with a friend and then wherever he can find. It does not span a great amount of time or come to any conclusions about humanity, it is simply a glimpse into one human life and it’s amazing. I just watched Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, again going into it with no real expectations and without even realizing it was another Truffaut film. It is very good although for me personally it doesn’t hold a candle to 400 Blows. There is less for me to identify with in these characters and their lives and choices I suppose. Yet the magic is there and many may prefer this to 400 Blows. This movie spans lifetimes, goes from comic to tragic with little warning of what is to come and invests in more than one single person. What can I say? I like stories about individuals best. Anyway, I’ve found another filmmaker whose oeuvre I must go check out more thoroughly and I really only wrote this post to say, “I fucking love the movies.”

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