Francois Truffaut (1932-1984) was already an important film critic in Paris by age 27 when he made one of the masterpieces of cinema, "The 400 Blows", his first feature film.
Truffaut was never a political film-maker per se, unlike his most famous contemporary Jean-Luc Godard. Having grown up partly in a childhood of occupied Paris, he adopted the notion that a cop was cop no matter what government was in control. An autodidact who never went to a university and struggled in school, the young man drew a great deal from his own experiences as a child estranged from his mother (who couldn't marry Francois biological father because he was a Jew and her family was anti-Semitic) and his adopted father. Roland Truffaut was a kind if distracted parent as far as Francois felt, an intellectual and mountaineer who never had much use for the boy when he discovered he wasn't too interested in climbing around the Alps or Kilimanjaro
What the boy he was interested in was cinema. After seeing his first movie at eight, he embarked a few years later on a a self-education program that included seeing three films a day and reading three books a week. Lacking money and time for the pursuit, he often slipped into movie theaters after skipping school in the afternoon, seeing the films of Alfred Hitchcock, the classics of Jean Renoir, and Marcel Ophuls, and various standard French films and Hollywood urban crime dramas. He managed in a pre-video age to see some films like "The Rules of the Game" and Marcel Carne's "Children of Paradise" a dozen times! As a critic in the mid-1950s, Truffaut was "adopted" by intellectuals in the Paris cinema and theater world and gained an entrance to Cashiers du Cinema" magazine on the strength of his writings. He interviewed almost every major film-maker who came to Paris, including Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks. He later co-authored a book of extensive interviews with Hitchcock that cemented the older's man's reputation with critics as someone more than a "master of suspense", rather a true "auteur" of his movies. They remained life-long friends.
By sixteen he had somehow managed to start his own film club in one of Paris many movie theaters and even rented some movies from the MGM office in Paris with an older friend, but got into trouble when he had cash flow problems and had to be bailed out by his father. He spent time in juvenile centers for all the hooky playing and cash flow problems. After a generally disastrous year in the French Army, where at one point he unwisely volunteered to be be sent to Indo-China and deserted before being shipped to Corsica for more combat training , the young Francois used what connections he already had at 18-19 among influential critics like Andre Bazin and Jacques Cocteau to get released from the service after a stint in a military brig. For some young men, this would be a setback--to Truffaut it was a goldmine of life experiences that he would employ to great effect in many of his "Antoine Deloin" films, a semi-autobiographical series of five movies for which "The 400 Blows" (1959) and "Stolen Kisses" (1968) are indisputable classics.
Like most young boys, I too went through these difficult times for most kids when they are stuck between authority and their own sense of justice and understanding. It is a voyage of one urban youth, under-loved and in the way at home and overdirected at school who tests his truth against the hypocrisies of parents, teachers and The Law. It is a film to be seen for all young people even 50-odd years on.