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© 2012 Simon Hitchman

If Francois Truffaut had died at the age of 30 after directing just three feature films, his reputation as one of cinema’s greatest directors would still be assured. Les Quatre cents coups (The 400 Blows), Tirez sur le pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player) and Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim) exemplified the qualities that made the French New Wave so unique and special and have come to be recognised as classics, loved and cherished by generations of moviegoers around the world. While, subsequently, Truffaut’s output may have been more uneven, his choice of material was never less than interesting, and his mastery of the medium evident in every frame. Here we list our choice of his greatest works:

vivement dimanche!


Vivement Dimanche!
  (Finally Sunday, 1983)

Truffaut’s final film is a heartfelt homage to the movies he grew up with and loved. Fanny Ardent plays the secretary of a businessman (Jean-Louis Trintignant) wrongfully accused of murder who sets out to investigate the case herself. A heady and entertaining concoction of suspense thriller, film noir and screwball comedy

Fahrenheit 451

After a long and difficult journey to the screen, this ambitious adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s dystopian science-fiction novel received disappointing critical reviews. Yet, since its original release, the film’s reputation has grown, with fans such as Martin Scorsese describing it as a major influence. Seen today, Fahrenheit 451 remains a powerful and timely indictment of totalitarian censorship that includes some of the most inventive and arresting sequences in Truffaut’s cinema.

  Fahrenheit 451








le dernier metro


Le Dernier Metro
  (The Last Metro, 1980)

Occupied Paris, 1941. Marion Steiner (Catherine Deneuve) and Bernard Granger (Gérard Derpardieu) are members of a Montmartre theatre company rehearsing a new play whose lives are put in jeopardy when they cross swords with a powerful Nazi collaborator. A compelling reflection on art and resistance during wartime, and Truffaut’s greatest success in France where it won 10 César awards.

read the full synopsis and review

le peau douce


Le Peau douce
  (The Soft Skin, 1964)

Taking his lead from Alfred Hitchcock who he’d recently interviewed, Truffaut’s fourth feature is a beautifully observed account of infidelity told with the precision of a suspense thriller. Jean Desailly plays a celebrated literary scholar, seemingly happily married, who embarks on an affair with a stewardess (Françoise Dorléac) with tragic consequences.

read the full synopsis and review







wild child


L'Enfant sauvage
  (The Wild Child, 1970)

Based on the true story of an 18th century behavioural scientist’s efforts to turn a feral boy into a civilized member of the human race, L’Enfant sauvage marked a return to the subject of childhood and the theme of the outsider. Taking on the role of the doctor himself so that he could interact directly with the young actor playing the title character, Truffaut drew on his own life experiences as both wayward child and father figure (the film is dedicated to Jean-Pierre Léaud).

Tirez sur le pianiste
  (Shoot the Piano Player, 1960)

Comedy and tragedy go hand in hand in Truffaut’s eloquent and playful homage to film noir and the American gangster picture. In the lead role Charles Aznavour is the introspective Charlie, a washed up pianist who is forced to face up to the past he has tried to forget when his younger brother is kidnapped. The most audaciously experimental of all Truffaut’s films, as revolutionary and original as Godard’s Breathless.

read the full synopsis and review

  Shoot the Piano Player









baiser voles


Baisers volés
  (Stolen Kisses, 1968)

Jean-Pierre Léaud returns in this third instalment in the Antoine Doinel series. Dishonourably discharged from the army, Antoine returns to Paris where he takes on a series of jobs, including a stint as a hotel clerk, and a turn working as a private detective, while falling in and out of love with several different women. A film of great charm that shifts effortlessly from slapstick comedy, to romantic intrigue, to dramatic confrontation.

read the full synopsis and review

La Nuit américaine
  (Day for Night, 1973)

In what is probably the greatest film ever made about the crazy business of making movies, Truffau himself plays Ferrand, a director who must deal with the upsets, disasters, frustrations and triumphs that go on behind the scenes of Je vous presente Pamela — the film within the film he is making. An international critical triumph, Day for Night won numerous awards, including the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

read the full synopsis and review

  Day For Night








400 blows


Les Quatre cents coups
  (The 400 Blows, 1959)

Truffaut's first feature is one of the defining films of the Nouvelle Vague. Based substantially on events from his own childhood, it marked his transition from controversial critic to world famous film director. In his portrayal of Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a troubled adolescent looking for an escape route from an unhappy life, Truffaut made the kind of realistic and personal film he had been calling for others to make.

read the full synopsis and review

Jules et Jim
  (Jules and Jim, 1962)

Truffaut’s enduring masterpiece is a captivating story of love and friendship between Jules (Oskar Werner), Jim (Henri Serre), and the free-spirited Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), over the course of twenty-five years. Memorably evoking a bygone era, Jules and Jim is a stylistically thrilling work of cinema, full of innovative storytelling techniques, that runs the full gamut of emotions from joie de vivre to tragedy.

read the full synopsis and review

  Jules And Jim








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