Strange Movie Moment

George Yatchisin

In Truffaut's first film, a short called Les Mistons (or The Brats ), there is a strange movie moment. Most film buffs know Truffaut was a leg man; even in his final film, Confidentially Yours, he parades his then-mistress Fanny Ardant about in short skirts and shoots her long shot, so she seems lost in a funhouse mirror, all legs and patrician neck, a line-drawing of woman, a definition of vertical. The dopey psuedo-noir Girl Friday detective plot is as skimpy as her skirts; while the tumor ate at Truffaut's brain, it left his libido, his love for legs, alone.

But back to the beginning. The brats terrorize, in their pre-teen way, an older girl, who spends most of the film cruising about on a bicycle, her skirt billowing, her legs pumping, revving the RPMs of each not-yet-adolescent heart just shaking out the dust of the French equivalent of cooties. The girl ends up with a boyfriend, and the brats pranking increases, for they aren't old enough to rank the lowly title of boyfriend, can't yet understand losing themselves in a field of flowers, in a pair of eyes. It's hard to believe there is a time when adolescence is a step up, is evolution. But Truffaut, a wild child-man, knew.

The moment, the strange movie moment, occurs when the brats are left alone with the girl's bike, while she wanders off with her boyfriend for a necking party in the woods. Truffaut slows the movie down, time expands, and one brat lowers his head reverently to sniff at her bicycle seat. When time returns, he doesn't scrunch up his face, he doesn't skip about at the edges of adulthood. When he raises his head, he looks unchanged, as if everything were as it should be, as if he knew what he knew, as if nothing could change a brat.

For some reason, I want to say the movie ends more bitter than sweet, that the boyfriend dies, or moves away, or falls out of love. But all I recall for sure is one brat, his nose to sweaty leather, learning what he's in for, not turning away.

Although not short (6'3"), George Yatchisin prefers to be brief. He lives, teaches, and writes in Santa Barbara, CA.