François Truffaut (1932-1984) can be credited with spectacularly launching the Paris-Right-Bank Cahiers du cinéma branch of the French New Wave (Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette and all that) at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival with his first feature film, The 400 Blows, now being revived at the Film Forum for two weeks, from Sept. 26 to Oct. 9. The same Cannes Film Festival launched the Left Bank branch of the New Wave (Agnès Varda, Chris Marker, Jean-Pierre Melville, Alexandre Astruc and all that) with Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima, mon amour.
Simone Signoret and Yves Montand and their entourages prepared to gloat over their critical nemesis, Truffaut, who was not yet the beloved figure in America he was to become. Actually, he was the meanest and most captious of the Cahiers critics, just as Godard was the most open and the most fair-minded. As Signoret and Montand said later, “We came to jeer, and we stayed to cheer.” Truffaut was on his way, along with his precocious child star, Jean-Pierre Léaud, who grew up to be Truffaut’s alter ego on the screen.