STOLEN KISSES (Baisers Volés)

(director/writer: François Truffaut; screenwriters: Bernard Revon/Claude de Givray; cinematographer: Denys Clerval; editor: Agnes Guillemot; music: Antoine Duhamel; cast: Jean-Pierre Léaud (Antoine Doinel), Delphine Seyrig (Fabienne Tabard), Claude Jade (Christine Darbon), Michael Lonsdale (Georges Tabard), Harry-Max (Monsieur Henri), André Falcon (Monsieur Blady), Daniel Ceccaldi (Monsieur Darbon), Claire Duhamel (Madame Darbon), Catherine Lutz (Catherine), Martine Ferrière (Gérante), Jacques Rispal (Monsieur Colin), Paul Pavel (Julien), Martine Brochard (Madame Colin); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Marcel Berbert; The Criterion Collection; 1968-France-in French with English subtitles)

“While Truffaut was fiddling with this trifle, the streets of Paris were burning with a student riot in May 1968.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Stolen Kisses is the third installment in François Truffaut’s (“Shoot the Piano Player”/”The Soft Skin”/”Fahrenheit 451”) cycle of films concerning his cinematic romantic fictional alter ego, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud). It started in 1959 with The 400 Blows and is followed by Antoine and Colette (1962); Stolen Kisses begins three years after in 1965; the two other films in the cycle are the 1970 Bed and Board and the final installment of the 1978 Love on the Run. It’s a lighthearted romantic comedy written by Truffaut, Bernard Revon and Claude de Givray.

During the shooting of Stolen Kisses, Truffaut became embroiled in what became known as l’affaire Langlois, the public protest of the removal of the beloved head of the Cinémathèque Français, Henri Langlois by the DeGaulle government. This event would lead to the student revolts of May 1968. Yet the film is a trifle that does not reflect Truffaut’s fight with the establishment.

The 20-year-old Antoine Doinel is discharged from the army for mental instability and returns to Paris to visit a prostitute. He then visits his girlfriend Jade (Christine Darbon), who is away skiing. But Antoine stays for dinner and her dad arranges for him a night clerk job in a seedy Montmartre hotel. Antoine gets canned when he’s tricked by private detective Monsieur Henri (Harry-Max) into opening a room where the wife of one of Henri’s clients is sleeping with her lover. The private eye takes pity on the schlemiel and finds him a job with the Blady Detective Agency. Antoine proves inept as a detective, as he loses the trail of a nanny who spends her afternoons working as a stripteaser; botches the case of a homosexual who suspects his magician friend of having a secret affair; and then is assigned to work as a salesman spy in the shoestore of the obnoxious owner, Monsieur Tabard (Michael Lonsdale), someone believing that everyone hates him and wants to find out why. This assignment leads the timid Antoine to have an affair with the beautiful middle-aged Mrs. Tabard (Delphine Seyrig), who seduces him. When Monsieur Henri dies, Antoine quits his job as a private detective and goes to work as a television repairman. All this time, he’s trying to get a disinterested Jade to pay more attention to him and finally proposes to her.

While Truffaut was fiddling with this trifle, the streets of Paris were burning with a student riot in May 1968. But the film is utterly charming and offers a somewhat melancholy poetics, as it’s so wonderfully acted by a most likable Léaud.

It uses Charles Trenet’s 1943 song, known here as “I Wish You Love,” in a most uplifting way as background sound.

Baisers volés


REVIEWED ON 11/15/2008   GRADE: B+