Domicile conjugal [1970]

The fourth film in François Truffaut's quasi-autobiographical Antoine Doinel cycle finds the idealistic child-man (played by Truffaut's alter ego and French new wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud) married to his sweetheart Christine (Claude Jade) and still plugging away at odd jobs. When his experiments in the florist trade burn his bouquets to a smoky black ruin, he decides that it's time for another trade, and lands a job sending radio-controlled toy boats around a miniature harbor mock-up. It's about that time that he learns of his impending fatherhood, but he throws a monkey wrench into his new happiness when he becomes obsessed with a beautiful young Japanese woman (Hiroku Berghauer). Truffaut enlivens Doinel's courtyard apartment with the bustle and business of neighbors, creating a warm sense of community reminiscent of the works of Jean Renoir. He also pays homage to comic auteur Jacques Tati in meticulously constructed comic bits and a hilarious cameo by Tati's famous character, M. Hulot. However, he tempers the giddy screwball kookiness that characterized the previous film in the cycle, Stolen Kisses, with a less forgiving disposition toward Antoine's passionate irresponsibility and emotional impulsiveness. In one of Truffaut's finest moments ever, he plays out a conversation between the separated but still in love couple with a hard-earned sense of reflective maturity: "I love you," she confesses, "but I don't want to see you." It's a comedy with serious edges as Truffaut decides it's time for Antoine to grow up. --Sean Axmaker

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