Performing arts teacher Ted Walch spent his second summer in Paris researching the lead actor of his favorite film in hopes of writing a book next year.
In the second semester of Cinema Studies, Walch shows his students “The 400 Blows,” a 1959 French film directed by François Truffaut, starring Jean-Pierre Léaud. Walch says he has been studying the film for a long time.
The movie is called “Les quatre cents coups” in French, which literally means “making mischief” but is translated into “The 400 Blows,” Walch said. The film is the story of an adolescent boy living in Paris who leaves home because of a lack of attention and delves into a life of petty crime, according to the Internet Movie Database.
Walch was interested in learning more about Léaud, who plays the adolescent boy. In the summer of 2013, he went to Paris for a week to learn what materials might be available for his research. This summer, he returned for a month to explore the Cinémathèque Française, the repository of all papers, letters and other materials having to do with Truffaut.
The film “The 400 Blows” inspired the book as well as a film project.
Photographers and videographers collaborating with Walch in Paris allowed him to work on both the book and the film at once.
Walch’s film is about 27 minutes long, and it shows scenes from the original movie followed by a scene showing what that location looks like in modern-day France.
Walch used alumni and friends to help him in Paris. Nick Lieberman ’11 helped Walch with research and will co-write the book. Michael Morgenstern ’03 and Sebastian Spader ’08 went on the trip to take still photographs. All were previously enrolled in one of Walch’s classes. Walch said he met up with an old friend from France and his fiancée to help with videography.
Neither Walch nor his alumni speak French, so they enlisted the help of French speakers to translate.
“We kind of had this funky team of people working on the project,” Walch said.
Walch plans to return to Paris next year and finish the book by the end of next summer.
“At the moment, I think the book is more about our search for the story about the actor and not as much a biography,” Walch said. “In our search for this story, we really find that there is a larger story to tell about the film.”
In Paris, Walch tried to get an interview with the leading actor, Léaud, but he said Léaud, now 72, is very reclusive. He did, however, secure an interview with an 85-year-old woman who was the editor of the original film.
“The highlight of the summer for me was [the interview with the editor],” Walch said. “She was an extraordinary human being with a lightning- fast memory. To hear her talk about working on the film and working with the actor was, to me, worth everything else.”