12 O’Clock Boys and The 400 Blows – Synergizing tales of male adolescence

The 400 Blows - 12 O'Clock Boys
The 400 Blows - 12 O'Clock Boys

SAN FRANCISCO, March 27, 2014 – 12 O’ Clock Boys is a riveting documentary about a witty and charismatic young boy named Pug, who dreams of joining a local group of illegal dirt bike riders.  One might fail to see the connection between this gritty documentary and the 1959 French New Wave film The 400 Blows, however the two films breathe so much of the same subversive spirit that they may have been brothers in a past life.

12 O’ Clock Boys and The 400 Blows are both films focusing on male adolescents.  While the films might seem separated by era, nationality, and genre both films follow the lives of troubled youths whose otherwise charismatic and witty spirits are in conflict with their toxic environments.

For Pug, the protagonist in 12 O’ Clock Boys this can be seen in the streets of West Baltimore where, as Pug puts it, “It ain’t really safe in Baltimore.  It kind of is, but its not”.  Although Antoine, the young protagonist in The 400 Blows is not thrust into the same violent neighborhood, the cultural landscape he is coming of age in is a turbulent one during the reconstruction of France in the 1950s.

Both Pug and Antoine are witty and charismatic adolescents whose futures would be bright given a positive environment.  However, the boys are pitted against callous adults and a society that is too cold to accept the naive mistakes that come with youth. In the opening scene of 12 O’ Clock Boys, Pug is shown standing in the back of a pick-up truck while a recording of a radio listener says “I wanna know what we’re gonna do about these little scumbags on these dirt bikes in our downtown?”  This radio rant gets worse, becoming racist where he explains that “they’re little black boys and someone’s going to have to get hurt, and frankly I don’t care”.  This is the America Pug is growing up in.  It is an America where one summer before we discovered that the Trayvon/Martin case would not be a fair and balanced one, and a stark reminder that a black boys life isn’t worth nearly as much as it should be.

Antoine also faces opposition from adults. In The 400 Blows, Antoine’s teacher who is listed in the film credits as Petite Feuille, is so quick to pigeonhole the young boy as a delinquent when he turns in a well-written essay, accusing him of plagiarism.

Pug and Antoine are both forced into roles of delinquency.   However, its important to note that they both possess dreams that are important yet not beneficial to their futures.  For Pug its joining the 12 O’ Clock Boys.  For Antoine it is finally getting to see the ocean.

Both characters succeed in pursuing these dreams.  However, what lies ahead is an unknown future where the odds seem to be favoring a life of petty crime.

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