9 years after the highly influential The 400 Blows (and 6 years after the short Antoine and Collette), Francois Truffaut and Jean-Pierre Leaud re-unite for another chapter in the life of Antoine Doinel with Stolen Kisses.
The films begins with Antoine (Jean-Pierre Leaud) dishonourably discharged from the army due to his (still) mischievous behaviour. Upon re-entering civilian life, he stumbles into the job of private detective, and is subsequently placed on an obscure case, where he has to solve why an owner of a shoe store (Michael Lonsdale) is loathed by those around him.
In the process Antoine falls in love with his client’s wife (Leaud Delphine), while also trying to woo long time love interest Christine (Claude Jade), who has her own problems with a stalker.
Stolen Kisses is a sub-standard French romance/caper farce, which features a nonsensical plot that spirals into too many side stories. The personal touch which Truffaut added to The 400 Blows is desperately missing here, and the evolution of the Doinel character fails to reach the hopeful expectations placed on him following The 400 Blows immortal final still shot.
The screenplay lacks wit and substance. Its supposed comedic elements fall flat, and its crime/mystery angle does not contain an iota of intrigue. The love story between Antoine and Christine, however, does feature a number of touching moments, and a wonderful performance by the irresistible Claude Jade. Leude is also good, if not wasted as the charming and cheeky Doinel.
This film is a disappointment. Having watched The 400 Blows and Stolen Kisses back to back, it is quite evident that the level of filmmaking between the two is way off, as is the baffling positive critical reception that Stolen Kisses has received by critics over the years. An unexceptional follow up to an exceptional film.