French director François Truffaut was born on February 6, 1932. Along with Jean-Luc Godard, he is one of the directors always associated with la Nouvelle Vague – although their friendship foundered irreparably after a major quarrel. His childhood was complicated; he lived with his grandmother until her death when he was ten. It was only after that that he lived with his mother and his adopted father; they would leave him alone while they went away on vacation or even at Christmas. Truffaut would skip school and sneak into movie theatres to escape when they were home. He was expelled at age 14 and took care of his own education thereafter. Truffaut started his professional life as a critic before moving to directing. His highly autobiographical first feature length Les 400 Coups won at the Cannes Film Festival. Day for Night was an Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Film in 1973. Both films were placed on Time magazine’s Best 100 Films of the Century. One of his final films, Le Dernier Métro, won 10 César awards. Truffaut also did a little acting, most notably in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He died on October 21, 1985 of a brain tumor at only 52 years of age.
Today’s expression, faire les 400 coups (fare lay cat sehn koo) literally means “to do 400 blows” but figuratively means to do a lot of dumb things. The boy in Truffaut’s film of the same name, a.k.a. Truffaut himself, may have done many foolish things as a young man, but the film is a long-term winner.