Movie Project #37 and #38: The Big Sleep [1946] and The 400 Blows [1959]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

The Big Sleep [1946]
The Big Sleep [1946, Howard Hawks]
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely.

I added The Big Sleep to my project because I had been reading Raymond Chandler’s novel at the time. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to finish the book due to my poor reading habits, but I was still excited to see the film. After recently seeing Casablanca, I was looking forward to more of Humphrey Bogart. In this regard, The Big Sleep does not disappoint. Bogart cruises through the movie, effortlessly playing the hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe. His chemistry with the young Lauren Bacall is impeccable, and the cast is loaded with strong performances.

While I greatly enjoyed Chandler’s writing, especially Marlowe’s snarky and quick-hitting one-liners, I had a hard time keeping up with the plot during the second half of the film. A number of characters were introduced in a short manner of time, and it was a little challenging to keep track of everyone, as well as their actions. Still, there’s no denying that this is a fun watch with Bogart and Bacall working together, and it is a strong Film Noir. 8/10

The 400 Blows [1959]
The 400 Blows [1959, François Truffaut]
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, Claire Maurier.

The 400 Blows offers a look into the life of a troubled teenage boy living in Paris. Antoine Doinel (Léaud) struggles in school, often clashing with authority and failing homework assignments. He has a rocky relationship at home, as his mother seldom wants anything to do with him. A series of unfortunate events leads Antoine into even darker times, as he runs away from home, skips school, and begins to steal from others. Nothing is going well for him, to say the least, and it appears that he doesn’t have a very bright future ahead of him.

The 400 Blows has a simple story, but it is an intriguing one nonetheless. While Antoine ultimately behaves like a juvenile delinquent, it becomes apparent that he likely would not act this way if someone would have just given him a chance. He certainly has a lot of potential, but it’s hard to realize this when every authority figure is constantly harping on the poor kid. Much credit must be given to Léaud, who is fantastic in the lead role, and I am curious to see some of his later work with Truffaut. This is a remarkable coming-of-age drama that still holds up today. 9/10

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