Antoine Doinel is a character that is essential to Truffaut’s filmography. He is the subject of his first feature film as a child and he returns to him again and again throughout his career. In fact if Truffaut himself hadn’t died at such a young age, he probably would have shown Doinel’s death. Doinel is a misfit going through life at an odd angle. He has no real ambition, he loves to fiercely, and his ability to “do the right thing” is limited. Despite all of these things, you can’t help but love him and his buffoon nature.
Stolen Kisses picks up the Doinel character when he is in his early twenties. He has just gotten expelled from the Army and returns to a past love but more importantly to the love’s parents. Always searching for the parents he loses, he seems to always bonds just as hard with the parents of his girlfriends as with the girlfriend herself. He goes through many different occupations, most notably as a private detective, before being fired from each one for being insufficient in the position. However it never really seems to phase him which I find slightly mind-boggling being an underemployed twenty something. I wish I could take my many jobs in stride, but I cannot. He seems to be able to because he has a obession with women more than he has with the occupations he has. In fact the reason he gets fired from the private detective agency is because he is caught having an affair with the wife of a client. These scenes between the wife, played by the wonderful Delphine Seyrig, are the best scenes in the film. While at tea with her, he mistakenly calls her “sir” and flees like a bad child. Then the wife visits him in his apartment and declares that she knows what he wants and she wants the same thing. Of course after that they get down to do the nasty.
Many people declare this film to be too light considering the time frame in which it was made. This film premiered within weeks of the famous Cinematheque protests that are a part of French film history. Rocked by the replacement of Henri Langlois, tons of famous directors and patrons of Cinematheque came out to protest. This coincided with the student demonstrations in France and the almost toppling of the presidency by pure will. But on the surface, with the exception of the first shot of the Cinematheque barred, this film seems to not really focus on those revolutionary times although it is not a period piece. Godard responded to these times very directly. Why couldn’t Truffaut?
The answer is that I think he did. He made the demonstrations a normal part of life. Several times in causal conversation protests and demonstrations are brought up. In fact his main love interest in the film participates quite reverently in these protests although Doinel tries to brush them off. This normalization is a reflection on Truffaut’s staunch ideals and want to have it be a part of everyday conversation.
The misadventures of Doinel are fascinating. His clear ineptitude at being able to follow someone, his faces he makes while in uncomfortable situations, and his violent feelings towards the women in his life all make Doinel a great character. I can’t wait to watch the other entries in this series.