François Truffaut was born in Paris on 6 February 1932. His mother was Janine de Montferrand whose future husband, Roland Truffaut, accepted him as an adopted son and gave him his surname. He was sent to live with various nannies and his grandmother for a number of years. It was his grandmother who inspired in him the love of books and music. He lived with his grandmother until her death. It was only after his grandmother's death when Truffaut was eight years old, that he lived with his parents for the first time.
Truffaut would often stay with friends and try to be out of the house as much as possible. His best friend throughout his youth and until his death was Robert Lachenay, who was the inspiration for the character René Bigey in “The 400 Blows” and would work as an associate on some of Truffaut's films. It was the cinema that presented him the greatest escape from an unsatisfying home life. He was eight years old when he saw his first movie, Abel Gance's “Paradis Perdu” (Paradise Lost) from 1939. It was there where his obsession began. He frequently played truant from school and would sneak into theatres due to the lack of money. After being expelled from several schools, at the age of fourteen he decided to become self-taught. Two of his academic goals were to watch three movies a day and read three books a week. Truffaut frequented Henri Langlois' Cinémathèque Française where he was exposed to countless foreign films from around the world. It was here that he became acquainted with American cinema and directors such as John Ford, Howard Hawks and Nicholas Ray, as well as those of British director Alfred Hitchcock. After starting his own film club in 1948, Truffaut met André Bazin, who would have a great effect on his career and life. Bazin was a critic and the head of another film society at the time. He became a personal friend of Truffaut's and helped him out of various financial and criminal situations during his formative years.
Truffaut was known as “The Gravedigger of French Cinema" and was the only French critic not invited to the Cannes Film Festival in 1958. He supported Bazin in the development of one of the most influential theories of cinema itself, the auteur theory. After having been a critic, Truffaut decided to make films of his own. He started out with the short film “Une Visite” in 1955 and followed that up with “Les Mistons” in 1957. After seeing Orson Welles' “Touch of Evil” at the Expo 58, he was inspired to make his feature film debut in 1959 with “Les Quatre Cents Coups” (The 400 Blows).
Truffaut was married to Madeleine Morgenstern from 1957 to 1965, and they had two daughters, Laura and Eva. He died on 21 October 1984, at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine in France at the age of 52.
1959 Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows)
1960 Tirez sur le pianiste (Shoot the Piano Player)
1962 Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim)
1970 L'Enfant sauvage (The Wild Child)
1973 La Nuit américaine (Day for Night)
1981 La Femme d'à côté (The Woman Next Door)
1959 Best Director Award, Cannes
1960 Critics Award for Best Film, French Syndicate of Cinema Critics
1974 Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Award
1981 Best Film, César Award