400 Blows : The Mere is a Mer is a Mother Outside

February 28, 2010

posted by caroline picard

I really enjoyed thinking about this film as a search of the mother figure, in part–the  way the main character is always talking about the “mer” (French “sea”), and ultimately ends up there, on the beach, in a moment of closure. The only closure that seems possible, when the relationship he has with his mother is so fraught–the child lives with the awareness that he was an unwanted bastard–manifested, of course, in her imaginary death when he lies to her professor.

In another sense, I think it’s a great portrait of the rebel or misfit–one who, out of no real malice or fault (I find him to be a pretty “good” kid, actually–he sets the table every night–always takes out the trash, all in all–) does not quite fit in. There is an amazing scene where he chugs a stolen jar of milk in the middle of the night, looking everything like a wino. What, no doubt, serves as a kind of foreshadowing.

Lastly, I love the regular references to film–the scene at the amusement park where the boy slides around on the gravitron wall, the way it is filmed it looks like a film reel. The boy go to the movie theater, just as the family goes to the movie theater–films seem both a chance to escape life as they are used in the course of self-reflection, i.e. the boy trying to work out his place in society, in relation to his mother–whether negotiating her betrayal, the absense of her affection. And even his need for her–

what, it seems, he can only ultimately find away from her, outside of society (there is an amazing scene where he gets into a prison car with prostitutes), in the natural world.

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