Antoine Doinel is a fictional character created by French film director François Truffaut. Doinel is to a great extent an alter ego for Truffaut, sharing many of the same childhood experiences, looking somewhat alike and even being mistaken for one another on the street.
Although Truffaut did not initially plan for Doinel to be a recurring character, he eventually returned to the character in one short-subject and three full-length films after introducing him in his debut feature, The 400 Blows. In all, Truffaut followed the fictional life of Antoine Doinel for over 20 years.
Doinel was played in all five movies by Jean-Pierre Léaud. Doinel's lover and later wife, Christine Darbon, was acted by Claude Jade in three films. His unrequited love interest Colette Tazzi (Marie-France Pisier) appears in the second, third (in a brief cameo) and fifth films. Patrick Auffay appears as Antoine's friend René in the first two films. François Darbon appears as Colette's father in the second and as a military adjudant in the third film. Numerous other characters re-appear through flashbacks utilizing footage from earlier films.
The Adventures of Antoine Doinel
The set of five films has been named "The Adventures of Antoine Doinel." The set is made up of the following:
The 400 Blows
Truffaut's debut was the film The 400 Blows. The 1959 film introduces us to the 12-year-old Doinel, a troubled Parasian boy who skips school, eventually turning to street life and petty crime in response to neglect at home by his parents. Towards the end of the film, he is sent to a reform school, from which he escapes for places unknown.
Antoine and Colette
The next appearance of Doinel was in the film short Antoine and Colette, which was part of the 1962 omnibus film L'amour à vingt ans. Doinel is now age 17 and becomes obsessed by Colette, a music student, but she only wants to be friends.
In the third installment, Stolen Kisses (1968), a more mature Doinel attempts to return to civilian life after a dishonourable discharge from the military. His romantic forays are rocky with Christine (Claude Jade), and then his boss's wife (Delphine Seyrig as Fabienne Tabard).
Bed and Board
Love on the Run
In each film, flashbacks to Doinel's earlier life consist of footage from the previous films.
Christine Darbon, portrayed by actress Claude Jade, first appears in the life of Antoine in Stolen Kisses. Subsequently she appeared in two more films, Bed & Board (now Christine Doinel) and Love on the Run, where, after divorcing Doinel, she again becomes Christine Darbon. Truffaut uses the occasion to examine three states, three ages, of the woman: loved from a distance (Stolen Kisses), married and misled (Bed & Board), divorced but still on good terms (Love on the Run). Christine is characterized by her good behaviour, the promptness of her glance, a sense of sacrifice which is by no means "tragic". In the film Love on the Run, Antoine and Christine were the first couple in the country to divorce under a new law allowing dissolution of a marriage by mutual consent.
In a case of life imitating art, Christine can also be seen as part of Truffaut's autobiography. While Antoine is seeking to seduce Christine in Stolen Kisses, in real life Truffaut fell in love with the actress who portrayed Christine, Claude Jade, becoming engaged to her. The two however did not wed. The character of Christine Darbon left an important and indelible mark on Truffaut's work: she is a character who never really reveals her emotions, whose sad smile is her only weapon to fight Antoine's cruelty and whose soft glance barely manages to hide an inner wound.