The 400 Blows Analysis

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Pages: 3



Submitted by Tirna Chatterjee

MPhil, 2016.


Childhood and the City

“Memory is not an instrument for surveying the past but it is theater. It is the medium of past

experience, just as the earth is the medium in which dead cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach

his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging.”

-Walter Benjamin, Berlin Childhood around 1900.

Why should one talk about Truffaut’s The 400 Blows? This revisitation to Truffaut's New Wave

masterpiece of 1959 is through the city of Paris, through history and to understand the nuances of the

cinematic with remembrance and recollection and memory 1 the significance of The 400 Blows is

manifold. It is a practice in the politics of the
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Exponents included Claude Chabrol, Jean-

Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, and François Truffaut.


Space with action get layered one upon the other. Much like the references in the postcard title, ‘Halle

Gate’-a place of linguistic ambiguity which ‘forms that illuminated grotto where I meet with the memory

of a wintry Berlin’ (BCHLS, 93). Benjamin’s poetic moment is rid both in the child’s initial confusion,

and the adult’s understanding, little Antoine and adult Francoise. The experiencing of place with the

encounter of its memory becomes both same and ‘other’. In its engagement with memory both real and

imagined, it ‘gives the I a non-I to which belongs the I: my non-I’ and allows this ‘non-I’ to ‘le[t] me live

my secret of being in the world’. The child’s first memory of built environment with their arcade-like

structures make him see the world as an extended version of his home...the City Paris/Berlin begins.

Space and time become their own and locate each other. Home and world, the transitory places, resonate

with the breadth of the household, and of the city (‘the rhythm of the metropolitan railway and of