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Sunday, November 7, 2010

LES MISTONS (1957)


François Truffaut’s first release was this sly two-reeler about a group of ‘tween’ mischiefs who moon over the local beauty and doggedly follow her around their village. Alas, the girl spends most of her free time with her fiancé, a coach from a nearby town, so the boys’ collective passion turns to adolescent pranks against the couple. That is, when they aren’t horsing around by themselves. This beautifully observed and perfectly paced pic is like the student film of your dreams*, but without a whiff of ironic distancing. It’s sweetly nostalgic, funny, unexpectedly erotic, unsentimental and stuffed with a sense of play that both tweaks & celebrates film. (Truffaut runs a shot backwards to liven up a bit of roughhouse and he quotes from the famous early Lumiere, THE WATERER WATERED/’95. That’s 1895.) Right from the start, Truffaut was, paradoxically, a master of the art that conceals art and a director who flaunted the nuts & bolts of cinema as another visual element. His apprenticeship days as a critic were over. (Mysteriously, supplemental material on this Criterion DVD reveal clips from scenes not in the finished film. Is there a longer cut?)

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Or a student film to crib from if you’re Rob Reiner whose STAND BY ME/’86 looks redundant next to this little wonder.

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