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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • French Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Shot-by-shot audio essay by Professor Brian Stonehill
  • Additional commentaries by Truffaut's lifelong-friend Robert Lachenay, and cowriter Marcel Moussy
  • Theatrical Trailer

The 400 Blows

1998 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By:
Starring: , Claire Maurier, , Guy Decomble, Georges Flamant, Patrick Auffay
1959 | 94 Minutes | Licensor: The Classic Collection

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #5 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 31, 1998
Review Date: April 22, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

Released in 1959, Francois Truffaut's first feature, The 400 Blows [Les Quatre cents coups], is also his most personal, based on his own stormy childhood. The 400 Blows unsentimentally portrays aloof parents, oppressive teachers, petty crime, and a friendship that would last a lifetime. The film marks Truffaut's passage from leading critic of the French New Wave to his emergence as one of Europe's most brilliant auteurs.

Forum members rate this film 8.6/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterionís original out-of-print DVD release of The 400 Blows, a port of their laserdisc, is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this single-layer disc. The image hasnít been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Itís obvious how far Criterion has come when you compare this 1998 DVD to the 2009 Blu-ray release. The Blu-ray transfer is absolutely wonderful. The transfer found on this long out-of-print DVD is quite problematic presenting plenty of artifacts. Edge-enhancement and jagged edges also rear their ugly head, and contrast is way too dark.

Restoration has been done, as shown by the DVDís included ďrestoration demonstrationĒ, though the film has received more extensive work with Criterionís newer releases (the Blu-ray is almost flawless in comparison.) This one still has plenty of marks and debris raining through, along with jumps in the frames.

In the end itís a rather bland, joyless looking transfer, vastly improved on with Criterionís DVD re-release and incredible Blu-ray.

5/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

I canít say the audio has improved all that much from edition to edition. This one is a little harsher edgier than the newer releases on DVD and Blu-ray. Criterionís included audio restoration showcases the job theyíve done on the filmís soundtrack and itís still an improvement, with much of the damage having been successfully removes. Still, itís a weak, sort of bland track.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

One of their earlier releases, a port of their laserdisc, it comes with a handful of supplements.

The two commentaries are the sole real features. The first one is by Brian Stronehill, which is the same commentary that has appeared on all of Criterionís releases. Itís a decent track, offering a subtle analysis of the film, covering its production history, and gives a history on Truffautís career as a critic and then filmmaker. He also has quotes from Truffautís friends and peers translated for the track. Itís a decent scholarly track and Iím still happy itís managed to make its way through all of Criterionís releases.

The second commentary features Robert Lachenay and Marcel Moussy. Lachenay is/was Truffautís good friend, and Moussy was a co-writer on the film. The track is in French but it looks as though it never occurred to Criterion to include subtitles for it, so on most it will be lost. Another unfortunate thing is that this track is not the French track carried over to future releases from Criterion, instead they used another audio commentary featuring only Robert Lachenay, which had subtitles. My French isnít great so I was only able to gather little bits. Moussy talks about his work with Truffaut and I believe thereís talk about Truffautís work as a film critic. Thereís also some talk about the filmís of the new wave. Someone can be heard faintly in the background asking him questions, so it sounds like a sort of interview. He takes up the first half of the track. The second half features Lachenay, and he talks about his friendship with Truffaut and the influences from his life that appear in the film. Iím not sure why this commentary wasnít carried over, as the trackís introduction seems to state, in French, these were recorded for the Criterion release so I canít see licencing issues being the reason. Itís a shame because I would have loved to have had a full English translation to it. Unfortunately I canít offer more on it, but someone who understands French a little better than me may get a lot out of this track. From what I could gather it sounded like a promising track.

Criterion also includes their restoration demonstrations. This one includes two, one for the video and one for the audio. The video one is your usual montage of before and after sequences, displaying the many cuts, slices, and bits of debris that have been removed. The audio restoration is similar but compares the audio in before and after sequences.

Then you get some fairly standard supplements such as a theatrical trailer declaring the latest masterpiece. You also get an insert with a very short essay by Annette Insdorf. Not really thorough but a nice read.

I thought it was a nice release at the time, though the newer DVD and Blu-ray most certainly better it.

5/10

CLOSING

This was the first DVD Criterion had to discontinue after losing the rights to Fox Lorber (who in turn released their own subpar DVD.) Criterion eventually regained the rights and released a better DVD (available on its own or in the Adventures of Antoine Doinel box set) with a better transfer and better supplements. They also released a Blu-ray edition featuring the best transfer of the film yet. The only real reason to consider this release is the French commentary (with no English subtitles mind you,) which has not been carried over to the other releases. Thereís no point otherwise.


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