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Stolen Kisses  
Francois Truffaut
1968 || 90 mins

After being discharged from the army for lapses of discipline, the now 20-year old Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) finds it hard adapting to civilian life in Paris. While resuming his on-again, off-again relationship with Christine (Claude Jade), he takes on a series of jobs, including a failed stint as a hotel clerk and a turn working as a private detective. As a detective he finds himself working undercover as a stock clerk in a shoe shop at the request of Msr. Tabard (Michel Lonsdale), who wants him to investigate why his employees dislike him. Things begin to get complicated when he falls for Mme Tabard (Delphine Seyrig), forcing him to come to decide about Christine and his future.

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Baisers Voles, the third instalment in Truffaut’s cycle of films concerning his cinematic alter ego, Antoine Doinel, is a much lighter film than its two predecessors and, although a comedy, in terms of quality certainly on par with Les Quatre Cents Coups. The freewheeling episodic storyline seems to make itself up as it goes along, but entertainingly, unpredictably, and shot through with a terrific sense of nouvelle vague-style freedom! Doinel's turn as a private detective is particularly genius. The idea that he is hired to tail the very person who hired him, Mr. Tabard, who fears that nobody likes him, immediately brings to mind the existential detectives portrayed over forty years later in I Heart Huckabees. (The fact that Isabelle Huppert starred in Huckabees does cause pause for thought about David O. Russell's possible admiration of the new wave. Was he inspired by Baisers Voles in the first place?)

Stylistically, Baisers Voles is free-spirited and youthful as any of the early new wave films. After sticking rigidly to the script in his two previous films, Truffaut allowed himself and the cast freer rein for improvisation this time, which contributed to the naturalistic performances. The result is a film which moves fluidly from slapstick comedy to romantic lyricism and dramatic confrontation. All the while, Denys Clerval's shell pinks, grass greens, bright yellows, shiny blacks, and pale blues are as beautiful as any watercolour tableau in Godard's Pierrot Le Fou, albeit more pastel -- perhaps a sign of Truffaut's more sentimental and nostalgic approach to film?

It is probably also worth noting that in 1968, when the film was made, student demonstrations and strikes continued to rock France. Although Baisers Voles doesn’t show these events directly – except for one brief scene on TV – the film still manages to capture the rebellious mood of its time. In Antoine Doinel audiences perhaps found a kindred free spirit and responded by making this one of Truffaut’s most popular films.

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