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Fox Lorber presents
Stolen Kisses (Baisers volés) (1968)

"To make love is a way of compensating for death, of proving you exist."
- Julien (Paul Pavel)

Review By: debi lee mandel  
Published: July 04, 2002

Stars: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claude Jade
Other Stars: Delphine Seyrig, Michael Lonsdale, Daniel Ceccaldi, Claire Duhamel, Harry-Max, Paul Pavel
Director: François Truffaut

MPAA Rating: R for (one scene of partial nudity)
Run Time: 01h:24m:55s
Release Date: April 23, 2002
UPC: 720917511825
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Stolen Kisses (Baisers volés) is the third in François Truffaut's autobiographical series played through his alter ego, Antoine Doinel (Léaud) that began in 1959 with his groundbreaking The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups). The engaging enfant terrible is now in his twenties, and as the film opens Antoine is dismissed from his military service, during which, we are not surprised to discover, he was mostly AWOL.

Back in civilian life, the parents of his childhood sweetheart welcome Antoine with more affection than Christine (Jade) herself. M. Darbon (Ceccaldi) sets him up with a job as night clerk at a hotel, which he botches miserably but leads him to his next position as a fledgling detective at a private agency. While he and Christine feel their way back to each other, Antoine passes through experiences that are meant to mature him; some succeed, some don't.

While it's not necessary to have followed Antoine's life to this point to enjoy this romantic comedy, Truffaut invites those who have to join a society of insiders with carefully placed references throughout the story (the adolescent Doinel kept a shrine to Balzac; in the opening scene here, he is reading Balzac's Le Lys dans la vallée, for example). Those who expect that the rebel child of The 400 Blows—an expression better translated as "raising hell"—to grow up mutinous and defiant may be disappointed; people do change, and Truffaut remains more faithful to life than to his audience in this regard. Antoine is now more hapless than resourceful, more selfish than self-destructive.

In this phase of the Doinel series, Antoine is not so much set adrift as drifting; now responsible for his own destiny, the young man returns again and again to the safe harbor that the family Darbon offers. The director takes a light-hearted approach; this is one of Truffaut's brightest comedies, and he himself has great fun behind the camera. He frames a brilliant scene at the detective agency in which three different conversations continue simultaneously while focusing on the least important of the trio. At another point, a dentist is brought down from his office upstairs to deal with an unruly client at the agency—why the dentist?—for no apparent reason.

Catherine: I followed her to 18 Place d'Anvers, where she stayed for an hour and a half.
M. Blady: To whose apartment did she go?
Catherine: I don't know, there are a lot of apartments…
Antoine: I know where she was.

Antoine is temporarily sidetracked in the fashion of Benjamin Braddock (a year earlier) by the wife (Seyrig) of his client, M. Tobard (Lonsdale). In a continuing homage to the director's favorite writer, the young man likens their attraction to the affair central to Balzac's Le Lys dans la vallée, but she strips the romance away by declaring, "I'm not an apparition. I'm a woman, which is the opposite." However, as in The Graduate, their encounter leads Antoine back to his girl, and the sweetest use of a bottle opener ever printed to film.

Truffaut is synonymous with spontaneity, and it is everywhere in this charmer. His camera creates action and excitement and manages to compress his compositions into impossible abstracts. Léaud is at once intense and distracted, looking more and more like Truffaut as he matures. He is particularly riveting in a scene in front of his bathroom mirror when he manically repeats first the name of his soon-to-be seductress ("Fabienne Tobard, Fabienne Tobard, Fabienne Tobard…"), then his girlfriend's ("Christine Darbon, Christine Darbon, Christine Darbon….") and finally his own ("Antoine Doinel, Antoine Doinel, Antoine Doinel…") until it seems his lungs will burst. Claude Jade makes her film debut as the serious young violinist who should run as far from the turbulent Doinel as she can, but instead becomes his anchor. The Darbons, who we will see more of in film four, Bed & Board (Domicile conjugal), are dream parents, seeming especially so to the tattered Antoine, and the rest of the ensemble play their low-key, madcap roles admirably. Of course, the streets and rooftops of Paris were to Truffaut what New York is to Woody Allen. Antoine's world is Montmartre, and Le Sacré-Coeur presides over his life, there to bless or curse him. No one captures the City of Lights as effortlessly as this director.

In an absurd and hilarious nod to cinematic devices, make sure to keep your eyes on a character billed only as "l'inconnu"—the "unknown."

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: It has been 20 years since I first saw this film in theaters. It was thin and scratchy then, which seemed part of the charm. In comparison, this new Fox Lorber release is rich and luxurious, steeped with the more saturated colors likely captured originally on film. The natural locations and available lighting do create areas of wash out, but this is obviously in the source. While imperfections and flecks are present, especially in the first reel, they are otherwise kept to a minimum and far from distracting. However, there are instances of reel-change markers that are quite intrusive when they appear.

The image has a fair amount of grain, most prominent in the many freeze frames used by the director, but other than those instances, it settles down into a smooth and nicely detailed picture.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original French mono sounds a little muddy technically as one might expect, but decent for its age. Dialogue is clean and there is no notable hiss. The occasional music stays in its place and remains level with the voices. Nothing more or less than necessary. As ever with films such as this, the random ambient noise adds to the underproduced charm.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
9 Other Trailer(s) featuring The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups), Jules and Jim (Jules et Jim), Two English Girls (Les Deux anglaises et le continent), The Last Metro (Le denier métro), The Woman Next Door (La Femme d'à côté), Confidentially Yours (Vivement dimanche!), The Soft Skin (La Peau douce), Bed & Board (Domicile conjugal) , Love on the Run (L'Amour en fuite)
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There is very little here. A measly six chapter stops is nothing short of irritating and terribly old school. The usual text-based filmographies and awards section includes the three leads (Léaud, Jade, Seyrig) and Truffaut, who was nominated for an Oscar® and won the National Society of Film Critics award for this project. Additional production credits fill two screens.

The François Truffaut Collection includes a slew of trailers on every disc, all presented in widescreen format: The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups), Jules and Jim (Jules et Jim), Two English Girls (Les Deux anglaises et le continent), The Last Metro (Le denier métro), The Woman Next Door (La Femme d'à côté), Confidentially Yours (Vivement dimanche!), Stolen Kisses (Basiers volés), The Soft Skin (La Peau douce), Bed & Board (Domicile conjugal) and Love on the Run (L'Amour en fuite).

Additionally, there is a sentimental Tribute to Jean-Pierre Léaud that runs 02m:23s and shows clips of the actor from the various Truffaut films he's appeared in.

Subtitles are spotty in their translation, and burned in. The good news is they are bright white and easily readable.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Stolen Kisses (Baisers volés) is a charming chapter in the life of Antoine Doinel, Truffaut's cinematic persona. Melancholy and hilarious, this billet doux should be in the collection of any Francophile, Truffaut fan or romantics everywhere.


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