Nine years after beaching Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) on that immortal freeze-frame in The 400 Blows, François Truffaut continued a unique five-chapter saga that followed Doinel, Leaud and himself into maturity. Whimsical dud A Gorgeous Girl Like Me, (1972) plus Depardieu and Deneuve’s The Last Metro (1980), are released simultaneously, as is his oft-forgotten triumph The Soft Skin (1964).
An adultery melodrama lensed like a thriller and edited for implosive tension, it fulfilled his ambition to make a love story like Hitchcock. This “polemical reply” to Jules Et Jim sees an academic take up with an airline hostess (Frances Dorleac) – and there was no escaping the autobiographical elements. Truffaut used his own flat as a set, made it while his own marriage was on the rocks and then got engaged to Dorleac.
Stolen Kisses (1968) and short-film Love At 20 (included as an extra) duly turn back to Doinel. The latter bounces with careful insights, spontaneous quirks and disarming affection, as Leaud’s passive-impulsive romantic drifts between adolescence and adulthood, jobs and women. Bittersweet comedies Bed And Board (1970) and Love On The Run (1979) eked out his 20-year ride though marriage, adultery, fatherhood and divorce, forming a melancholy adieu to the eternal child who’d become an icon of Truffaut and French cinema itself. Gratifyingly, the films are treated to the extras they deserve, with introductions, writer/actor commentaries or vintage Truffaut interviews boosting every disc.