Following the literary adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 and the film that would later go on to inspire Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series The Bride Wore Black, Francois Truffaut returned to the Antoine Doinel series in 1968 with Stolen Kisses.
We pick up on the story that began in The 400 Blows and Antoine et Colette with Antoine freshly discharged (dishonorably) from the army, and on the lookout for his sweetheart (although not Colette the earlier object of his affections from the second film in the series). Through a series of events Antoine ends up working for a private detective agency, fall for the boss’s wife and finally end up working as a TV repairman. It’s all very scattershot but works incredibly well on screen.
The use of the private detective agency is particular interest, given the inspiration that the classic Hollywood detective film had had on Truffaut, and being that that particular strand of cinema was largely dominated by such figures. It’s a nice tribute, and didn’t seem to falter as parody too much, which is one of my complaints with his Shoot The Pianist. The use of the role of TV repairman as an occupation is a thinly veiled nod to the television industry too, with the “enemy” of the French film industry still some years away from its reformed standing as effective savior of the national film industry at this point.
The after shock of the nouvelle vague can be seen throughout Truffaut’s return to the franchise that arguably started it all. From references to Laurel and Hardy, to the brazen attitude of its protagonist, Stolen Kisses bares all of the hallmarks of the work which preceded it, with the progressive nature of the Antoine Doinel Cycle effectively coining the definitive example of post-modern cinema by the final film, Love On The Run.
Stolen Kisses is perhaps the best looking work of Truffaut’s career, with the lingering camerawork an obvious inspiration to the aesthetics of modern American independent cinema. Wes Anderson and David O. Russell and the like, with their heavily structured framing and knowing attitude towards their own existence following in the footsteps of Truffaut’s film.
Two key scenes really stand out. A sequence in which Antoine, with his face to a mirror recites his own name over and over would form the key marketing moment of the film, and is a scene that instantaneously found itself ground in to the French cinema consciousness. The second impressive sequence sees the Paris locale of the film mapped out geographically, albeit with a twist. Utilising the all but dead communiqué method of pneumatic post, Truffaut tracks the underground tunnels of Paris, as he follows a love letter from Antoine to his intended. Passing through such familiar locales as Rue de Richelieu and the Champs Elysees, Truffaut provides the ultimate spin on the scenic photography of that most visually recognisable city.
A season of work in celebration of Francois Truffaut opens at the British Film Institute today, with Stolen Kisses screening on the 5th and 16th February.
Adam Batty is the Editor of Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second, and can be found on Twitter.