Came out in late 1960, after Breathless (which Truffaut wrote), 400 Blows and Les Mistons. Dawn doesn’t like it, and the Taschen book I’m reading on Truffaut says it was largely disliked, misunderstood and ignored (and even Jules & Jim did just well enough to break even, no big comeback).
Charlie plays piano at a small-time bar, running away from his old life as a concert pianist after his wife Therese killed herself. He’s friends with a prostitute (Clarisse) and a bartender (Lena). Charlie’s little brother Fido (a kid from 400 Blows) lives with him, and his other brothers are thieves who run into trouble after screwing over their two scary/clumsy accomplices, who chase everyone throughout the picture. In the end, Lena is killed and Charlie returns to work.
Great bits: Charlie’s inner-thoughts voiceover, the subtitled singer in his bar, the balance between ridiculous and dangerous maintained by the gangsters, the sudden shifts in tone, the beautiful girls surrounding Charlie.
The commentary points out all the mirrors, says Truffaut used lead actors who looked like himself (true of Jean-Pierre Leaud).
I enjoy the movie – it’s light and short and heartfelt. But I’m also still suffering from post Children of Men trauma, and this movie’s joyful subversion of genre doesn’t hit hard enough to make an impact. Maybe when I’m in a more delicate mood I can appreciate it more.