François Roland Truffaut (February 6 1932 – October 21 1984) was one of the founders of the French New Wave in filmmaking, and remains an icon of the French film industry. In a film career lasting just over a quarter of a century, he was screenwriter, director, producer or actor in over twenty-five films.
Truffaut was married to Madeleine Morgenstern from 1959 to 1965, and they had two daughters, Laura (born 1959) and Eva (born 1961). Truffaut and actress Fanny Ardant lived together from 1981 to 1984 and had a daughter, Joséphine Truffaut (born 28 September 1983).
In 1983, Truffaut was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He died on 21 October 1984. At the time of his death, he still had numerous films in preparation. His goal was to make thirty films and then retire to write books for his remaining days. He was five films short of his personal goal. He is buried in Montmartre Cemetery, Paris.
The primary focus of The 400 Blows is centered on the life of a young character by the name of Antoine Doinel. This film follows this character through his troubled adolescence. He is caught in between an unstable parental relationship and an isolated youth. The film focuses on the real life events of the director, Francois Truffaut. From birth Truffaut was thrown into an undesired situation. As he was born out of wedlock, his birth had to remain a secret because of the social stigma associated with illegitimacy. He was registered as “A child born to an unknown father” in the hospital records. He was looked after by a nurse for an extended period of time. His mother eventually married and her husband Roland gave his surname, Truffaut, to Francois.
Although he was legally accepted as a legitimate child, his parents did not accept him. The Truffauts had another child but he died shortly after birth. This experience saddened them greatly and as a result they despised Francois because of the memory of regret that he represented (Knopf 4). He was an outcast from his earliest years; he was pushed aside, dismissed as an unwanted child. Francois was sent to live with his grandparents. It wasn’t until Francois’s grandmother’s death before his parents took him in, much to the dismay of his own mother. The experiences with his mother were harsh. He recalled being treated badly by her but he found comfort in his father, Ronald Truffaut’s laughter and overall spirit. The relationship with Ronald was more comforting then the one with his own mother. Francois had a very depressing childhood after moving in with his parents. They would leave him alone whenever they would go on vacations. He even recalled memories of being alone during Christmases. Him being left alone forced Francois into a sense of independence. Whenever he was left alone, he would often do various tasks around the house in order to improve it such as painting or changing the electric outlets. Sadly, these kind gestures often resulted in a catastrophic event causing him to get scolded by his mother. His father would mostly laugh them off.
The 400 Blows marked the beginning of the French New Wave movement, which gave directors such as Godard and Rivette a wider audience. The New Wave dealt with a self-conscious rejection of traditional cinema structure. This was a topic on which Truffaut had been writing for years.
Following the success of The 400 Blows, Truffaut featured disjunctive editing and seemingly random voice-overs in his next film Shoot the Piano Player (1960). Truffaut has stated that in the middle of filming, he realized that he hated gangsters. But since gangsters were a main part of the story, he toned up the comical aspect of the characters and made the movie more attuned to his liking. Even though Shoot the Piano Player was much appreciated by critics, it performed poorly at the box office. While the film focused on two of the French New Wave’s favorite elements, American Film Noir and themselves, Truffaut never again experimented as heavily.
In 1962, Truffaut directed his third movie, Jules and Jim. Over the next decade, Truffaut had varying degrees of success with his films. In 1965 he directed the American production of Ray Bradbury’s classic sci-fi novel Fahrenheit 451. It showcased Truffaut’s love of books. His only English-speaking film was a great challenge for Truffaut, because he barely spoke English himself. This was also his first film shot in color. The larger scale production was difficult for Truffaut, who had worked only with small crews and budgets.
Truffaut worked on projects with varied subjects. The Bride Wore Black (1968) is a brutal tale of revenge, Mississippi Mermaid (1969) is an identity-bending romantic thriller, Stolen Kisses (1968) and Bed and Board (1970) are continuations of the Antoine Doinel Cycle, and The Wild Child (1970) included Truffaut’s first acting in a film.
Two English Girls (1971) is the yin to the Jules and Jim yang. It is based on a story written by Henri-Pierre Roche, who also wrote Jules and Jim. It is about a man who falls equally in love with two sisters, and their love affair over a period of years.
Day for Night won Truffaut an Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1973. The film is probably his most reflective work. It is the story of a film crew trying to finish their film while dealing with all of the personal and professional problems that accompany making a movie. Truffaut plays the director of the fictional film being made. This film features scenes shown in his previous films. It is considered to be his best film since his earliest work. Time magazine placed it on their list of 100 Best Films of the Century (along with The 400 Blows).
In 1975, Truffaut gained more notoriety with The Story of Adele H. Isabelle Adjani in the title role earned a nomination for an Best Actress Oscar. Truffaut's 1976 film Small Change gained a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Foreign Film.
Truffaut's final movie was shot in black and white. It gives his career almost a sense of having bookends. In 1983 Confidentially Yours is Truffaut’s tribute to his favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock. It deals with numerous Hitchcockian themes, such as private guilt vs. public innocence, a woman investigating a murder, anonymous locations, etc.
Among Truffaut's films, a series features the character Antoine Doinel, played by the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud. He began his career in The 400 Blows at the age of fourteen, and continued as the favorite actor and "double" of Truffaut. The series continued with Antoine and Colette (a short film in the anthology Love at Twenty), Stolen Kisses (in which he falls in love with Christine Darbon alias Claude Jade), Bed and Board about the married couple Antoine and Christine -- and, finally, Love on the Run, where the couple going divorces.
In the last movies, Léaud's partner was played by Truffaut's favorite actress Claude Jade as his girlfriend (and then wife), "Christine Darbon."
A keen reader, Truffaut adapted many literary works, including two novels by Henri-Pierre Roché, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Henry James' "The Altar of the Dead", filmed as The Green Room, and several American detective novels.
Truffaut's other films were from original screenplays, often co-written by the screenwriters Suzanne Schiffman or Jean Gruault. They featured diverse subjects, the sombre The Story of Adele H., inspired by the life of the daughter of Victor Hugo, with Isabelle Adjani; Day for Night, shot at the Studio La Victorine describing the ups and downs of film-making; and The Last Metro, set during the German occupation of France, a film rewarded by ten César Awards.
|1955||Une Visite||Une Visite|
|1957|| Les Mistons||Les Mistons|
|1958||Une Histoire d'eau||Une Histoire d'eau||Co-directed with Jean-Luc Godard|
|1959||The 400 Blows||Les Quatre cents coups||Antoine Doinel series|
|1960||Shoot the Piano Player||Tirez sur le pianiste|
|1962||Jules and Jim||Jules et Jim|
|1962||Antoine and Colette||Antoine et Colette||Antoine Doinel series, segment from Love at Twenty|
|1964||The Soft Skin||La Peau douce|
|1966||Fahrenheit 451||n/a||Filmed in English|
|1968||The Bride Wore Black||La Mariée était en noir|
|1968||Stolen Kisses||Baisers volés||Antoine Doinel series|
|1969||Mississippi Mermaid||La Sirène du Mississippi|
|1970||The Wild Child||L'Enfant sauvage|
|1970||Bed and Board||Domicile conjugal||Antoine Doinel series|
|1971||Two English Girls||Les Deux anglaises et le continent|
|1972||Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me||Une belle fille comme moi|
|1973||Day for Night||La Nuit américaine||Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film|
|1975||The Story of Adele H.||L'Histoire d'Adèle H.|
|1976||Small Change||L'Argent de poche|
|1977||The Man Who Loved Women||L'Homme qui aimait les femmes|
|1978||The Green Room||La Chambre verte|
|1979||Love on the Run||L'Amour en fuite||Antoine Doinel series|
|1980||The Last Metro||Le Dernier métro|
|1981||The Woman Next Door||La Femme d'à côté|
|1983||Confidentially Yours||Vivement dimanche!|
|1960||Breathless||À bout de souffle||Directed by Jean-Luc Godard|
|1988||The Little Thief||La Petite voleuse||Directed by Claude Miller|
|1995||Belle Époque||Belle Époque||Miniseries, with Jean Gruault; directed by Gavin Millar|
|1970||The Wild Child||Dr. Jean Itard|
|1973||Day for Night (film)||The film director|
|1978||The Green Room (film)||Julien Davenne|
|1977||Close Encounters of the Third Kind||Claude Lacombe||Directed by Steven Spielberg|