In today’s episode Nate and Austin compare Francois Truffaut’s best and worst rated films, The 400 Blows (1959) and Fahrenheit 451 (1966), respectively. Nate talks about the fight between the French and Austrian, Austin talks future tech, and they both try to look smart and fail.
Check back next Sunday at 7pm PST where we will compare Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) and A Life Less Ordinary (1997), his best and worst rated films.
Also check out the first audition director Francois Truffaut did with actor Jean-Pierre Leaud for The 400 Blows:
Fahrenheit 451 Notes
PLOT: In an oppressive future, a fireman whose duty is to destroy all books begins to question his task.
- Ratings: IMDb 7.3 | RT 81% C / 72% A
- Released: 1966
- Director: Francois Truffaut
- Writer(s): Francois Truffaut and Jean-Louis Richard (screenplay), Ray Bradbury (novel), David Rudkin and Helen Scott (additional dialogue)
- Cinematographer: Nicolas Roeg (Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, The Witches)
- Notable actors: Julie Christie, Oskar Werner, Cyril Cusack, Anton Diffring, Jeremy Spenser, Alex Scott
- Budget: $1.5 million
- Box office: $1 million US
- Fun Facts:
- Oskar Werner cut his hair for the final scene to purposely create a continuity error. This was due to his hatred for the director.
- The film’s credits are spoken, not read, in keeping with the film’s theme of destruction of reading material.
- According to producer Lewis M. Allen, François Truffaut and Oskar Werner hated each other by the end of filming. For the last two weeks, they didn’t speak to one another.
- Author Ray Bradbury never did any fact-checking in regards to the title. He asked a fire chief what temperature book paper burned at, and was given the answer “451 degrees Fahrenheit.” He liked the title so much, he didn’t bother to see if it was the correct temperature. Actually, The Chief went to burn an actual book, because he didn’t know the answer when Bradbury asked him; he read the temperature with a thermometer.
- The location filming of the final sequence with the “Book People” took place in poor weather. It was hoped that the weather would improve for the final days of shooting. Instead, they discovered that it had begun snowing during the night. The filming of the final shots while it was snowing was an unplanned contribution to the film’s memorable ending.
- François Truffaut said that this was his only film in which he clashed with an actor – Oskar Werner. Truffaut asked Werner to forgo heroics and act with a level of modesty, but Werner chose to play it with arrogance. Truffaut disliked the stilted performance Werner gave and insisted he play it like a monkey discovering books for the first time, sniffing at them, wondering what they are; Werner argued that a science fiction film called for a robotic-like performance.
- Producer Lewis M. Allen said the studio’s legal department requested that only books in the public domain be shown burning for fear of being sued by offended authors. Director François Truffaut and Allen ignored the request, believing that anyone would be flattered to have their book included.
- François Truffaut reportedly said that he found science fiction films uninteresting and arbitrary. Because of this, a friend of his told him the story of Ray Bradbury’s novel ‘Fahrenheit 451’. Immediately afterward, Truffaut wanted to make a film from the novel and subsequently spent years raising the financing.
The 400 Blows Notes
PLOT: Moving story of a young boy who, left without attention, delves into a life of petty crime.
- Ratings: IMDb 8.1 | RT 100% C / 94% A
- Released: 1959
- Director: Francois Truffaut
- Writer(s): Francois Truffaut (scenario), Marcel Moussy & Francois Truffaut (adaptation), Marcel Moussy (dialogue)
- Cinematographer: Henri Decae (Le Samourai, The Boys from Brazil, Elevator to the Gallows)
- Notable actors: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Remy, Guy Decomble, Georges Flamant, Patrick Auffay, Daniel Couturier
- Budget: N/A
- Box office: $30.7 million
- Fun Facts:
- All the young actors who unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Antoine were used in the classroom scenes.
- So pleased with Jean-Pierre Léaud and his screen test (an informal conversation with the film’s director being off-camera), François Truffaut doctored it into the finished film by using fade-outs and substituting his voice with off-camera female psychiatrist’s voice.
- The English title of the movie “400 Blows” is a gross misinterpretation of the original title. The Finnish and Swedish translations of the title, roughly translatable to “400 practical jokes” are closer to the original meaning, albeit not perfect. The Swedish title: “De 400 slagen” means “The 400 blows” and make no sense. The original title stems from the French expression “Faire les quatre cents coups”, meaning “to live a wild life”, as the main character does. Literal translation of the expression would be “to do the 400 dirty tricks”.
- Jean-Pierre Leaud’s answers to the questions given to him by the psychologist at the camp near the end of the film were not scripted. Francois Truffaut told Leaud in advance about the scene for what to expect to a certain extent, and did provide some minor coaching when Leaud answered the question in between takes as to what was working and what was not, but at large, Leaud’s answers are unscripted and ad-libbed, per Truffaut’s wishes, who wanted the scene to feel spontaneous and believable.
- The title of the film comes from the French idiom “faire les quatre cents coups”, meaning “to raise hell”.
- All spoken lines in the film are dubbed over again by the actors themselves, save for a few minor and trivial parts. For instance, during the last scene, the sound of Antoine’s footsteps was added during editing – the truck that the camera rested upon produced too much noise. Shooting on the streets of Paris, as many films of the French New Wave did, was often hectic and re-dubbing everything allowed François Truffaut to not have to worry about lugging bulky and expensive sound equipment around, and more importantly he would not have to worry about a street scene having too much background noise. This made shooting faster and easier.
- François Truffaut’s first major motion picture.
Intro music by Eric Lynch