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LOVE ON THE RUN
The Adventures of Antoine Doinel Collection

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars:  Jean-Pierre Léaud, Marie-France Pisier, Dorothée, Claude Jade, Julien Bertheau, Dani
Director:  François Truffaut
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles:  English
Video:  Color, anamorphic widescreen 1.66:1
Studio:  Criterion
Features:  interview excerpt, television program excerpt, trailer
Length:  95 minutes
Release Date:  April 29, 2003

"Why did you never say anything before today?"

"Because all my life I've hidden my feelings, never saying anything directly."

"You don't trust people."

"But I trust you, Sabine.  Believe me."

Film ** 1/2

Truffaut had initially declared 1970's Bed and Board to be the final film in the Antoine Doinel series.  However, in 1978, after the commercial failure of his last film, The Green Room, Truffaut was depressed.  In an effort to liven his mood, he decided to return once more to his favorite screen alter-ego, Antoine Doinel, for his next film.  This new film would be structured as an overview of the earlier films featuring the character and would offer a sense of hope and new direction to Antoine's life.  In an early script treatment, a divorced Antoine would have a chance encounter with his first love, Colette.  They would recount their lives to each other and slowly fall in love.  This time, their relationship would have a happy outcome, and the Antoine Doinel cycle would conclude on a romantic note that would fulfill the early promise of young love from Antoine and Colette.

Instead, the final version of this film, Love on the Run (1979), was a far cry from Truffaut's original vision.  The film was still a commercial success, but Truffaut extracted little joy from his latest production and, for the first time in his life, felt tired of making films.  Given the nature of Love on the Run, Truffaut experimented extensively with flashbacks in the film, incorporating much actual footage from the earlier Antoine Doinel films through innovative editing.  But while it have been innovative back then, today, it seems ordinary and dates the film somewhat.  Furthermore, whereas the earlier films in this series somewhat paralleled Truffaut's own experiences, by this time, the paths of Truffaut's and his alter-ego's lives had diverged significantly.

The flashbacks are even a little misleading.  One, involving Colette's cameo in Stolen Kisses (a color film), is shown in black & white.  Others, such as scenes of Antoine running about, are shown out of context to illustrate something other than their original intent.  The most telling sign of trouble, however, is when the flashbacks ultimately become more interesting than Love on the Run's framing storyline.  Since these flashbacks are so numerous and occasionally run for a great length of time, the film begins to border on redundancy.  Truffaut edited the flashbacks creatively (as reminiscences, scenes from Antoine's book, inner thoughts, etc.) but ultimately Love on the Run still begs the question - if it exists only to offer so many scenes lifted directly from the previous films, why not just watch the previous films instead?

When last we saw Antoine Doinel (in Bed and Board), he had recently married his sweetheart Christine and their marriage had just survived Antoine's first infidelity with a Japanese woman.  Now, in Love on the Run, eight years after their marriage, Antoine and Christine are separated once more.  The reason for this marital strife is Antoine's repeated infidelity, although this is conveyed in the film as almost an afterthought.  The film does not pause to reflect upon the emotional impact of this new marital crisis.  Unlike Bed and Board, which offered several bittersweet but touching scenes relating to Antoine's infidelity, Love on the Run just throws it in for comic effect and moves right on along.  In general, the entire film can be said to have been composed in a similar manner.

At the start of Love on the Run, Antoine has a new girlfriend, Sabine.  She loves him but is uncomfortable with his reluctance to be honest with her and to truly let her become a part of his life.  Antoine's life, however, is still unaccomplished.  The novel he was finishing in Bed and Board had not been a great seller, and he now works as a proofreader in a printing factory.  His life and his ambitions remain unfulfilled.  One day, as Antoine is seeing his young son off to summer camp at a train station, he spies Colette, his first true love, on another train.  Antoine instinctively hops on her train as it leaves the station, feeling that fate has somehow given him an opportunity to address an old, unresolved relationship.  Given Antoine's other romantic problems at the moment, it is perhaps not his wisest decision.  Colette ultimately rejects him again, telling him, "You can't just do anything at all and then say 'forgive me.'  You haven't changed at all."

Marie-France Pisier reprises her role as Colette (from Antoine and Colette).  She actually looks quite good, possibly more beautiful now than in her original appearance.  Unfortunately, Colette's back story is dull and uninvolving, despite occupying an entire third of the film's running length, so we have no real emotional stake in her character.  Colette is apparently no longer with her ex-husband Albert (for sad reasons which the film will reveal later) and is currently running after a disagreeable book shop owner who doesn't seem very interested in her.  Frankly, that should be a good thing because he is a boring sourpuss, yet Colette is inexplicably drawn to him.  It is a quaint reversal from Antoine and Colette, for now Colette is the pursuer, and the object of her desire is indifferent to her.

Colette is also now a lawyer, and the big conflict for her currently is whether or not to accept the defense of a man who killed the 3-year-old son he thought was not his.  She has strong personal reasons (which I will not reveal), unrelated to Antoine, for not wanting to do so, yet by the film's end, she decides to take the case after all.  Truffaut seems to be making a case that her decision is illustrative of Antoine's own parallel forgiveness of his parents later in the film.  But from a logical standpoint, it doesn't make sense and I didn't buy it.  Furthermore, despite Colette's worthy occupation, she regularly earns extra money by offering herself to paying customers on the nightly commuter train.  It is an implausible notion, but one into which Antoine wanders as he is seeing off his son.  I didn't buy it, either.  Suffice it to say that several false notes drain the Colette story of its dramatic impact by the film's end.

Antoine also does not come across as a very sympathetic character this go-around.  He is too hyperactive and his mannerisms seem contrived.  Antoine seems incapable of emoting without resorting to a lot of hand gestures, vocal acrobatics, or bugged-out facial expressions.  When Sabine temporary break ups with him, he is unable to convincingly convey his love for her.  He gesticulates and tosses out the words, but there is little sense of any real conviction in his delivery.  Antoine is less like a real adult and more like a man who has yet to abandon his adolescence.  In the aftermath of conflicts or personal losses, he falls back on his old habit - he searches out women (in earlier films, this would have come in the form of a prostitute or an affair, but for this film, it is Colette).

Antoine has not matured in his handling of difficult situations.  This creates a central character who, now in his early thirties, is problematic.  Truffaut himself recognized the dilemma of the situation, and knew that if Antoine aged but continuously remained an outsider to society, it would become increasingly difficult to empathize with him.  For this reason, Truffaut wanted to make Love on the Run the final chapter in the Antoine Doinel series and to show a hopeful, redemptive change in the character and the way he addresses his relationships.

Of the other women in Love on the Run, Claude Jade, as Christine, is quite winsome, as always.  Christine is easily the most likable character in the film, but Truffaut shuffles her into the background for much of the film.  Instead, Sabine occupies the role of Antoine's new love.  Played by Dorothée (real-life host of the children's TV show Récré A2), Sabine is reminiscent of the younger Christine and even exudes some of her innocent charm and grace.  But she is not as vibrant a character, mainly because she is not adequately developed as a character until the film's last scene.  By then, it's too late.  In addition, Truffaut also sabotages Sabine's introduction.  She is first seen rolling around on the floor with Antoine.  Opening credits obscure much of the dark scene, anyway, and there is a bland pop-lite theme song, "L'amour en fuite," that plays with the credits.  Audiences will not know whether to focus on the credits, the murky photography, or the song.  It's disorienting.  Compare this scene to Christine's simple appearance in Stolen Kisses, in which she appears like an angel out of the night, waving timidly at Antoine and miming cute, little messages to him through a glass barrier.  Furthermore, the fact that Sabine is introduced before Christine even appears in the film is also confusing for audiences, considering that Bed and Board concluded with Antoine and Christine together again.  Audiences will eventually realize that the marriage has probably collapsed again, but will wonder immediately, was Sabine the cause?  Since we are already familiar with Christine from the previous films, we will instinctively sympathize for her, and since we know nothing of Sabine, we will instinctively view her negatively.  Again, it's not flattering and it starts the film off on the wrong note.

Love on the Run does its saving graces, however.  While the film starts poorly, its final sequence, a reconciliation between Antoine and Sabine, is quite affecting and probably the best scene in the movie.  Sabine has her best moment in the film as Antoine's latest suffering girlfriend.  She is honest and opens her feelings to him: "I don't know much about life, but it seems that two people who love each other should share everything....when I saw you couldn't decide on life with me and life without me, I knew I'd better be careful."  Sabine speaks at length; it is one of the rare times in the entire Antoine Doinel series that someone truly leaves herself so emotionally vulnerable.  Antoine, in response, finally shows signs of maturity.  He confesses his love for her, convincingly this time, and offers her the honest truth with no excuses.  It is perhaps his first real act as an adult in the series.

Most importantly, Love on the Run offers a final reconciliation between Antoine and his mother.  She does not actually appear (except in flashback), but Antoine encounters one of her former acquaintances.  They eat lunch together and walk together, and that gentleman, Monsieur Lucien, tells Antoine that his mother, in her own strange way, truly loved him.  Together, they visit her grave in Montmatre cemetery.  It is Antoine's first visit to his mother's resting place.  Thus, the main theme of Love on the Run is revealed.  It is not about love or new adventures.  It is about reconciliation, of finding peace for the unresolved experiences of Antoine's past.  The air between Colette and Antoine is cleared in this film.  Though Antoine's marriage is over, he and Christine continue to remain very good friends.  The emotional scars from Antoine's childhood, especially the seemingly indifferent love of his mother, are beginning to heal.  And perhaps Antoine, in his reconciliation with Sabine, will finally begin to grow up, abandon his adolescence, and accept a new role in society as an adult.

And thus, on this optimistic note, did the adventures of Antoine Doinel come to their final conclusion.

Would Truffaut have would eventually created a sixth installment to the series?  Sadly, we will never know.  In August, 1983, Truffaut began experiencing debilitating headaches.  Initially attributed to acute sinusitis, the cause of his headaches was soon discovered to be something more ominous - a malignant glioma in his right frontal cortex.  Even in face of such news, Truffaut retained a courageous outlook, joking of reviews for his early film Shoot the Piano Player: "They declared the film couldn't possibly have been made by someone whose brain was functioning normally."

Truffaut's career had seen the creation of an incredible legacy of films, many of which surpass even the best works of today's directors.  Love on the Run may have been one of his minor films, but it still bore his touch for humanistic filmmaking and reflected his great love for the cinema.  Truffaut's enormous influence on generations of young directors cannot be understated. 

Truffaut's final film was 1983's The Woman Next Door, completed prior to his illness.  The following year, on October 21, 1984, in Neuilly, France, François Truffaut passed away.  He was 52 years old.

Video *** 1/2

The film is presented in a color, anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen transfer made from a 35mm interpositive.  It is a solid job and shows no discernible compression defects.  The modern sequences look quite fine.  The flashbacks are naturally of variable quality, but this is indicative of 1970's technology, not the transfer itself.  Also, as with the other films in the Antoine Doinel series, the image has been cleaned up and looks quite good.

Audio ***

The monophonic 1.0 audio was mastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic soundtrack.  It sounds decent and quite clean, although this DVD is probably not the one to use if you want to impress friends with your audio system.  The sub-woofers stay quiet the entire film, and the dynamic range of the audio is somewhat limited.  But, again, it's adequate for the purposes of this film.

Features:* 1/2

There are only three short extras on this DVD.  But, since it's part of a box set (The Adventures of Antoine Doinel), that's fine.  The best features are located on the set's supplemental disc.

The first extra on this DVD is an excerpt from the TV programme Cinescope.  Truffaut offers some insight on his film.  Most significantly, he hints at his own dissatisfaction with the film.  The excerpt does not mention it, but even though the film was a success, Truffaut found the story implausible and the script "flimsy, and very hard to improve upon."  Love on the Run would join his other films The Bride Wore Black and Fahrenheit 451 as a film he did not enjoy re-watching.

Next is a rare interview with Truffaut and Pisier.  They both discuss the rationale behind the film's concept as a concluding chapter to the Antoine Doinel series.  Truffaut also states conclusively that this will be the final film in the series.

Lastly, there is a trailer, which promises to bring back most of the women of Antoine's life for this film.

Summary:

Love on the Run is Truffaut's fifth and final chapter in the chronicles of Antoine Doinel.  Although the film is a somewhat unnecessary epilogue, it still does point out many of the main themes of the series and in its final scene, offers a touching conclusion to the series.