Les Mistons (François Truffaut / France, 1957):

A child's gaze for François Truffaut's camera, one overflowing with callow infatuation yet aware of its toll -- the narrator recounting the "hidden dreams" of a batch of boys might be the aged Leo Colston in L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between. A film offered partly to validate Truffaut's "A Certain Tendency of French Cinema" salvo for Cahiers du Cinéma: the author's purpose (artistic airiness, movement, spaciousness) and foes (a poster of a Jean Delannoy flick is ripped off the wall) are succinctly identified. First and foremost, there's the pleasure of dashing around Nice with friends and photographing sunshine, a gag, or Bernadette Lafont's skirts billowing as she rides a bicycle toward the camera. The gamine is "unbearably beautiful" to the boys watching from afar, a rapid zoom into her vehicle segues into a ceremonial slow-mo shot of one of the kids sniffing out the seat where her ass had just been. Awe turns to resentment when their muse starts dating another grown-up (Gérard Blain), and their jeering follows the couple in a tennis court, at the movies, into the woods. The rejuvenation of the French cinema is Truffaut's thrust for 18 minutes, from the reenactment of L'Arroseur Arosé to the Cocteau effect that revives the boy "killed" in a cops-and-robbers game. Mack Sennett is the model of execution, a skittering tempo suggesting a missing frame or two, accelerating toward the darkening of youthful desire, and Le Beau Serge, The 400 Blows, etc. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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