Les Mistons, François Truffaut (1957)

An affecting slice of adolescent life in 1950s Provence

This seventeen-minute film – one of the director’s first – follows the mistons (or brats in English) of the title as they torment Bernadette an attractive older teenager. The pre-adolescent boys are fascinated by the object of their torments, but are too young to give voice to their probably sexual feelings. Instead they chase the heroine and her boyfriend around Nimes on their bicycles – a conveyance on which all the characters spend nearly the entire film.

It is a vivid and haunting portrait of a very particular point in childhood development that includes many of the features that would come to characterise Truffaut’s later, more important work. There is an emphasis on everyday details; getting on and off bikes, hitching up skirts and posting cards. The photography is naturalistic and the locations stunning – particularly Nimes’ Roman amphitheatre and the fleeting view of Pont Du Gard.

Rather generously, Les Mistons is included as a bonus feature on the same disk at 400 Blows – possibly the defining film of the French New Wave.

TD Sep 12

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