Truffaut's The 400 Blows is considered by many to be the first film of the French New Wave, and somewhat autobiographical, and Truffaut has been quoted as saying that the film saved his life.

It has been suggested that there are quite a few similarities between Antoine Doinel and Holden Caulfield (Protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye), i.e. they lurch from adventure to adventure, both feature somewhat displaced, rebellious teenage boys, placed in a major city, and both feature main characters that are not really a part of any group, and tend to get excluded or shoved out of groups.

Is there any evidence that Truffaut was influenced by J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye, 1951) when penning the screenplay for 400 Blows (released 1959), or is it more a desire to rattle the cages of the Cannes judges who had banned Truffaut the year before?

  • Can I ask, did my answer suit or would you like further details/analysis (in which case I can stick a bounty on it)? Dec 3, 2014 at 14:04

1 Answer 1


I don't have any evidence that the 400 Blows was influenced by the wonderful Catcher in the Rye and unfortunately I don't think any evidence is forthcoming unless some interview with Truffaut appears.

However, I do know that 400 Blows' french title was "Les Quatre Cents Coups", which means to raise hell. This coincides rather nicely with Truffaut's own background. Paraphrasing from MOMA, Truffaut often wrote about angry young men. His own past involved a troubled childhood, jail time and army desertion. Reading the MOMA article will give more detailed analysis, but ultimately the primary focus of the film was to be (at least partly) autobiographical.

Certainly Roger Ebert, in his review of the film, agreed:

Inspired by Truffaut's own early life, it shows a resourceful boy growing up in Paris and apparently dashing headlong into a life of crime.

So whilst it's difficult to know how much the Catcher in the Rye actually influenced the movie, it is known that a lot of the story is autobiographical. Logically, since his childhood (born in 1932) predated Catcher in the Rye (1951) by some time, it seems likely that it was never a central or main source of inspiration for 400 Blows.

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