Review: Baisers Voles (1968)

Baisers Voles (1968)

Directed by: François Truffaut | 91 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Delphine Seyrig, Claude Jade, Michael Lonsdale, Harry-Max, André Falcon, Daniel Ceccaldi, Claire Duhamel, Catherine Lutz, Martine Ferrière, Jacques Rispal, Serge Rousseau, Paul Pavel, François Darbon, Albert Simono, Jacques Delord

The French master filmmaker François Truffaut made four films starring his alter ego Antoine Doinel. It all started with ‘Les quatre cents coups’ (1959), Antoine is then about 14 years old and tries to find his way to adulthood, but it is not very easy. Truffaut partly incorporated his own childhood experiences into this film and although it was never his intention to make Antoine a recurring character, in the years after ‘Les quatre cents coups’ he filmed three more feature films and a short in which his alter ego plays the leading role . In the short film ‘Antoine et Colette’, a segment from the 1962 anthology ‘L’amour à vingt ans’, the now 17-year-old Antoine falls in love with music student Colette, who does not return his advances. Six years later, Antoine experiences his first real love affair in ‘Baiser volés’ (1968), but it all still feels quite uncomfortable. ‘Domicile conjugal’ (1970) and ‘L’amour en fuite’ (1979) would follow later, in which the complications between Antoine and the women in his life are central. In all those films, actor Jean-Pierre Léaud plays the role of Antoine and other actors also return in the same roles. In particular Claude Jade who plays the role of Antoine’s great love Christine in the three last films. In the context of life imitating art: Truffaut, just like his alter ego, fell under the spell of Jade. She became his muse and the two were about to tie the knot until the filmmaker changed his mind the day before the wedding.

The first time we see Jade is in ‘Baiser volés’. The film was made in the turbulent year of 1968, at the height of the sexual revolution, but above all at the time of student uprisings in Paris, protesting against government oppression. There was also a lot going on in the French film world. The Minister of Culture wanted to remove Henri Langlois, the eccentric founder of the Cinematèque, the Film Museum in Paris, and just about the greatest cinephile imaginable, because he felt Langlois was too firmly in control. had. That was against the sore leg of many leaders from the French (and international) film world. Without Langlois, the Nouvelle Vague would not have existed. And so, in the spring of 1968, Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer and many other French filmmakers and actors loudly protested against Langlois’s removal from office. Colleagues such as Hitchcock, Kurosawa and Fellini also made their mark. Truffaut also used his film ‘Baiser volés’ to show his support for Langlois: he dedicates the film to his good friend and opens with a view of the Cinematèque in front of which hangs a sign saying ‘Closed’. Incidentally, the protests of the filmmakers really paid off, because the minister decided to put Langlois back in office.

That social unrest plays a role in the background in ‘Baiser volés’, but it is certainly not a political film. At the start of the film, we see that Antoine (Jean Pierre Léaud) is discharged from the army because he is not strong enough. He visits his girlfriend Christine (Claude Jade), with whom he corresponded during his period in the service. Because he has to work, Christine’s parents help him get a job as a night watchman in a hotel. The common thread in this film is Antoine’s eternal search: for suitable work, for love, for himself. The hotel owner soon puts him back on the street, but by chance a new job is offered to him on a silver platter. A private investigator he helped catch a smuggler red-handed wants to hire him to shadow people. His place of employment becomes a shoe store, where he goes undercover to find out what the employees think of their boss. Because his relationship with Christine is on the back burner due to this new job, there is room for a new love and Antoine falls head over heels for the much older wife of the boss, Mrs. Tabard (Delphine Seyrig), who is more than happy to seduce him . Will Antoine finally manage to hold down a job? And will he discover what true love means or will he keep searching?

‘Baiser volés’ revolves around Antoine’s transition from adolescent to male and his search for who he is. The fact that Antoine weighs and weighs, doesn’t dare to make any decisions and fumbles through all those different jobs makes him sympathetic, charming and human. It is also part of his age that he makes a mess of things, we hear ourselves thinking. Truffaut switches organically from one atmosphere to the next: from the slapstick humorous scenes in the workplace to lyrical romantic encounters with the women in his life. He even finds room for a touch of social involvement with his nod to the student revolt in Paris. It should be clear which side Truffaut himself was on. While this film seems light-hearted and mundane at first glance, if you look closely, it turns out that there is a deeper layer behind it. On top of that, Truffaut was above all a film buff par excellence and liked to put all kinds of references to other films in his work. Not only to his own earlier films (for example the short-lived return of the character Colette, or the ode to the oeuvre of Balzac, the writer who previously played a prominent role in ‘Les quatre cents coups’), but also to classic cinema such as the Laurel & Hardy movies.

With ‘Baiser volés’ Truffaut made a film that is lighter than the first films in which Antoine Doinel played the leading role. A film that paints a very human picture of a timid young man in his twenties who still has to find his place in life and in love and who is learning through trial and error. A film that perfectly captures that chaotic atmosphere of Paris and in which Truffaut subtly lets his love for film seep through. And a film that once again makes it clear that it is better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t done. Although all that doubting and twisting Antoine does of course result in a more entertaining film!

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