Friday, February 17, 2012

Caught in the Moment.

This is a still frame from the final moments of "The 400 Blows," a favorite film of mine by French New Wave director, Francois Truffaut. Even outside the context of the film, the image itself resonates with me due its content and composition -- the perceived movement of the boy and the waves, along with the perfect positioning of the boy, the sky, the ocean, and the land within the frame's rule of thirds. Within the context of the Truffaut's film, this still captures the character of Antoine as he suddenly looks directly into the camera. At the precise moment that his eyes meet the lens, the image freezes and Truffaut does an optical zoom into a close-up of Antoine's face. A few seconds later, "FIN" (The End) appears over his face. "The 400 Blows" has no denouement. The character has run away, momentarily escaped his troubles, and has satisfied his goal of seeing the ocean for the first time. However, his future is uncertain. He is free, but now what? The look Antoine gives the camera, along with the freeze and zoom, is unexpected and gives the viewer a sudden jolt. Stylistically, you might think it would call attention to the filmmaking and distance you from the emotion of the narrative. However, for me at least, it has the opposite effect. Antoine seems to have caught me watching. Truffaut freezes not only Antoine, but me -- the viewer -- and pulls us closer together with his zoom. This "confrontation" between character and audience in the final seconds of the film, leaves me considering not only everything I have just witnessed of this boy's story, but also makes me think about my role in it as an observer.

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