Dani, Dorothée, Claude Jade, Jean-Pierre Léaud, and Marie-France Pisier in L'amour en fuite (1979)



(director/writer: François Truffaut; screenwriters: Marie-France Pisier/Jean Aurel/Suzanne Schiffman; cinematographer: Néstor Almendros; editor: Martine Barraqué; music: Georges Delerue; cast: Jean-Pierre Léaud (Antoine Doinel), Marie-France Pisier (Colette), Claude Jade (Christine), Dani (Liliane), Dorothée (Sabine), Rosy Varte (Colette’s Mother), Julien Bertheau (Monsieur Lucien), Daniel Mesguich (The Librarian); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Francois Truffaut; Criterion Collection, The ; 1979-France-in French with English subtitles)

“This installment is as lightweight as the others and is still pleasing even though it has lost some of its freshness and spontaneity.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the fifth and last in the narrative series about Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), the director’s alter ego, that began twenty years ago in 1958 with The 400 Blows. French New Wave director François Truffaut (“Jules and Jim”/”The Green Room”/”Small Change”) fills in the gaps to the series and nicely concludes it with his usual weird insights and comical look at the human condition, as his shallow, self-absorbed but lovable hero goes onto new amorous adventures. It even seems possible our boy’s last affair has a slim chance of coming out rosy (which is about as optimistic as Truffaut ever gets over a romance). It’s cowritten by Truffaut, Marie-France Pisier, Jean Aurel and Suzanne Schiffman.

In this episode we find the still immature Antoine Doinel as a thirtysomething working as a proofreader and getting an amiable divorce from Christine (Claude Jade), the musician he courted in Stolen Kisses and had a strained marriage to in Bed and Board. He also leaves behind his young son. The divorce gets undue publicity because it’s the first no-fault divorce of its kind in France.

Antoine now finds himself interested in Sabine (Dorothée), a bright young lady who works as a clerk in a record store, but he screws up the relationship by breaking one too many promises and she gives him the boot. He then by chance meets again the girl from his childhood that he had a crush on and wrote about in his published autobiography, Colette (Marie-France Pisier). She’s now a divorced lawyer, who is still sharp enough to see through him as someone unreliable and not changed. Colette has a boyfriend who is a librarian (Daniel Mesguich) and who coincidentally turns out to be the brother of Antoine’s Sabine. This leads to a certain amount of misunderstanding and a unique attempt at a reconciliation between Sabine and Antoine that’s arranged by Christine and Colette, something Truffaut handles with deft comical skill and makes the most out of nothing.

This installment is as lightweight and pleasing as the others, even though it has lost some of its freshness and spontaneity. It was much-maligned by the critics for recycling material it already presented in other films. I think to fully enjoy it means living with the flashbacks it constantly lays on us of the previous episodes–using film clips of those films–a questionable framing device that is used in cheesy sitcom TV to fill in the gaps of the story for those not familiar with the other episodes. I’m not sure it always works, but if you are not completely blown off by this misuse of flashbacks you’ll probably find the new material rewarding and even if the film is not entirely successful it still has a masterful touch in depicting a colorful character and also presents an intelligent sense of experimentation with the visuals.