ANTOINE AND COLETTE, a.k.a. THE 401ST BLOW (not really), is only about half an hour long, ’cause it was originally the first segment of an anthology called WHEN YOU’RE 20 AND IN LOVE, with other ones directed by Shintaro Ishihara, Marcel Ophuls, Renzo Rossellini and Andrzej Wajda. I couldn’t find the whole thing, but they have DVDs that include just Truffaut’s segment along with THE 400 BLOWS or the earlier short LES MISTONS. It is the continued blowing adventures of Antoine (still Jean-Pierre Leaud). Patrick Auffay also returns as his best friend Rene, who now is in love with his cousin because she has short hair like Joan of Arc. I’m not sure if that was a French thing or a Truffaut thing. I’m gonna try not to judge. Anyway the two of them have a flashback to when they almost got caught smoking Rene’s dad’s cigars.
Isn’t that weird? What if Tarantino’s segment of FOUR ROOMS was about, like, Jules Winfield and the bartender Paul, and had a flashback to their scene in PULP FICTION? We might be living in a different world then.
It has been three years and Antoine is a grown young man. He has his own cigarettes that he lights up as soon as he gets out of bed. Wikipedia says he’s 17, which sounds about right, but he’s been on his own for a while, living the dream. He has an apartment with a balcony overlooking the city. He pays for it with his job at a record factory, first putting the records into the sleeves, and later he’s promoted to pressing the labels on and trimming the excess edges of the vinyl. This is a really cool scene because it’s like a little educational film about how records are pressed.
I think they had to film Leaud doing the process without that much practice. He seems slower than the real guys with the job must’ve been. Still, it seems like such a painstaking, inefficient process it’s a wonder they ever made enough of anything. And when he gives the first one he made to the girl he likes it seems like a really meaningful gift.
Antoine really likes listening to records, and seems to be trying to learn about music. He regularly goes to a series of “youth concerts,” classical music performances and musicology lectures. But maybe it’s for the wrong reasons: he sees a cute girl there and then spends weeks maneuvering to sit behind her (and stare at the hairs on her neck) or next to her. If she doesn’t go to one he’s depressed. He gets up the nerve to talk to her, and even ends up walking her home. She is the Colette of the title, played by Marie-France Pisier.
Here’s a situation still relatable to the young people: she’s nice to him, but definitely isn’t trying to have the same serious relationship he is, and his dumb boy brain doesn’t know what to do with this. When she says “maybe” they’ll hang out she might go to a party with someone else and either not think or pretend not to think it will matter to him at all. But she does bring him to meet her parents, and they immediately love him.
Part of him knows she’s never gonna like him that way. At least that’s what he tells Rene.
But he still won’t back off. Let me tell you the worst decision Antoine makes in this one. Since Colette doesn’t spend as much time with him as he wants he moves directly across the street from her. It’s some serious stalker shit, but on day one her parents see him smoking in his window, are thrilled to see him, come up to check out his apartment, think it’s great that he lives there. Later they’ll wave to him from their window and have him over as a regular dinner guest. I’m not sure if he understands that being the family friend is not a path to being Colette’s boyfriend, it’s an obstacle.
My boy Toine is gonna have to learn a hard lesson here. You can’t just will somebody into falling for you. And just ’cause you followed her around doesn’t mean she owes you anything. And if she falls for some other guy then that’s not about you, it has nothing to do with you. You got no business getting mad about her choice.
Moving in across the street to spy on her seems like a funny, extreme thing for a fictional character to do, so it’s weird to read that it was something Truffaut actually did. But despite the autobiographicalness I think the movie knows he’s being crazy. It makes Colette really cool whenever he’s being pushy and she shuts him down. Like this one:
Near the end Colette comes over to Antoine’s to invite him to dinner with her parents. She doesn’t want to go to a performance with him, so he turns into a pouty baby. “Don’t lead me on,” he says. “Leave me alone.”
“What a bore,” she says. She has no patience for his little boy shit.
When he comes over he talks passive aggressively about having tickets but not knowing if he’s gonna go. Then a much more grown up young man comes to pick Colette up for a date. And Antoine has to be re-introduced to him and shake hands and try to be cool. So that’s the end of Antoine and Colette.
It finishes on a nice moment with Antoine staying to watch TV with the parents. They obviously feel bad for him.
Pisier was an unknown 17 year old actress, which makes it gross that Truffaut had “a brief, incendiary romance” with her. And he was married. But she went on to appear in 80+ movies, direct two and write a few, including LOVE ON THE RUN, the last of the Antoine Doinel movies. That’s almost as many as Leaud, and more than Michael Dudikoff.