The 400 Blows is the debut film of French director Francois Truffaut. The film was released in 1959 in France and was an unexpected success. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and at the Cannes Film Festival for the Palm d'Or. Truffaut won Best Director at Cannes.
The main character in the movie is a young troubled boy named Antoine, who lives in Paris with his mother and his stepfather. Antoine gets into trouble frequently at school and has a tough relationship with his teachers and his peers, often getting into conflict and having physical fights with his classmates.
Gradually, the movie reveals that Antoine is not the only one to blame for his behavior. Towards the end of the film, the viewer learns that Antoine knows that the man married to his mother is not his biological father, and that he was raised by his grandmother for a big portion of his childhood because his mother was unable to take care of him, and that his mother wanted to get an abortion after she found that she was pregnant with Antoine and that Antoine was frequently let alone to do as he pleased because his parents were seldom home.
Despite its focus on youth, the film is filled with mature themes and motifs. Antoine feels abandoned by his family and he often tries to find comfort in his friends rather than at home. In fact, the relationship Antoine has with one of his classmates, René, is stronger than the relationship he has with his own parents. At the observation center, Antoine longs to see Rene more than he wants to see his own mother. Among the other themes tackled in the film is the idea that the children have no freedom, and are controlled by the school system in an almost tyrannical way.
The film was well-received by audiences and critics at the time of its release and it marked the beginning of what is known as the French New Wave, one of the most iconic film movements in cinematic history.