Film teacher researches French director in Paris

Performing arts teacher Ted Walch spent a week in Paris during the summer researching French director Francois Truffaut’s “Les Quatre Cents Coups” at The Cinémathèque Française. He also walked the streets to visit sites where the film was shot.

“For a long time I’d wanted to know even more than I’d been able to find out in the research I’ve done that is available, and also, I really wanted to be in Paris, where, really, in spite of my age, I haven’t spent much time,” Walch said.

Walch has included this film in the Cinema Studies course since the course first started.

“I loved the film ever since I first saw it, when I was about the age of the kids that I teach, I think in 1960,” Walch said. “Then years later, when I was putting together the Cinema Studies course, I knew that this film had to be a part of it.”

“Les Quatre Cents Coups,” or, in English, “The 400 Blows,” helped launch the French New Wave, which Walch called “one of the great movements in film.”

Walch said he asked The Cinémathèque before he arrived there to prepare the documents he planned on examining that pertained to the film, including different versions of the script and letters by the director. He also spent some time at the Francois Truffaut Library, named after the film’s director.

Walch hired a translator-researcher to work with him since he does not speak or read French, “embarrassingly so,” he said.

Walch said the biggest question he was researching was the influence the actorJean-Pierre Léaud, who played the central character when he was a teenager, had on the film.

Walch said he intends to write something from the research he has done.

“I’m not so much one for worrying about whether it gets published or not, but I will enjoy writing it, and I’ve already started to do some of that writing,” he said. “But I’ve realized that the more I work on this, the more I realize I need to know before I’m really ready to set down some ideas on paper in a really coherent way.”

Walch plans to return to Paris next summer to continue researching the film. The translator, Charlotte, he hired is still working on their project, and they are keeping in touch over email, he said.

One of his hopes for next summer is to interview Léaud, who is now 69 years old and reclusive, Walch said.

“I think I can get to him, so I’m going to try,” he said.

Walch said he most enjoyed going all over the city on foot to visit all of the places on the city streets where the film was shot.

“I mean, that sounds a little weird because, obviously, things have changed greatly since 1959,” Walch said. “It’s like religious pilgrims who go to visit places where their religious leaders were born and died, so I felt like I was doing the stations, except it was about a film. It was fun.”

Walch’s week in Paris was the main focus of a longer trip around England and France. He spent five days in London watching plays, three in Burgundy meeting a former student from his time teaching in Northern California, who will speak at a documentary screening at the Upper School Oct. 1, and two days in Oxford visiting a Harvard-Westlake graduate studying film there.

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