Watch Francois Truffaut’s Short Film, Les Mistons, Or What He Called “My First Real Film”

By the French New Wave's standards, François Truffaut made films with a startling straightforwardness. Yet something about the man's entire body of work feeds the sneaking suspicion that, no matter how many times you've watched everything in it, you've never gazed upon its depths. This applies equally to his beloved, obliquely autobiographical The 400 Blows and its sequels, his well-known pictures like Fahrenheit 451 and Jules and Jim, and the Small Changes and Mississippi Mermaids of the world that few seem to watch today outside of revival screenings. Jean-Luc Godard, Truffaut's cinematic colleague and one-time friend, ultimately dismissed nearly everything in Truffaut's filmography as nothing more than "stories." Every cinephile must go through a moment of temptation to do the same, but the films have a way of haunting you into revisitation after revisitation — just like, say, Alfred Hitchcock's. No wonder those two had so much to talk about.

Les Mistons, the second short film Truffaut ever made and the first that ever satisfied him, showcases these qualities in miniature. A teenage girl named Bernadette, skirt flying in the wind, bicycles across the countryside for a rendezvous with her strapping gentleman friend. This presents a fine opportunity for a quintet of mischief-minded prepubescent boys. Obscurely tormented by the older woman's desirability and their own inability to process it, they follow her around day after day, sometimes tormenting her, sometimes helpfully fetching her tennis balls, but usually just staring. They might spend one afternoon playing cops-and-robbers; they might spend another getting beaten up by the object of their quasi-affection's boyfriend. They lead rich lives, these rambunctious, short-shorted, early 20th-century petits écoliers.

Then the narrator, a now-grown member of this comically harmless gang, remembers the central event: the man who has become Bernadette's fiancée has perished in a mountain-climbing accident. This leads to the quintessential Truffaut moment, elegiac yet faintly troubling, that is Les Mistons' last: months after the incident, the boys happen upon a darkly dressed Bernadette strolling stiffly down the road. Hiding behind a wall, they stare as she passes and disappears from view. Experienced Truffaut-watchers should also note, of all things, the visual effects. Early examples of the filmmaker's light but selective touch appear in the slow-motion kiss one boy plants on Bernadette's bicycle seat and the reverse motion that allows another to rise from his imaginary death and re-enter his imaginary gunfight. Almost everyone operating in the creative space blown open by the French New Wave could do this sort of thing, of course, but few besides Truffaut could do it — or would even consider doing it – in the service of understatement.

Find Les Mistons in our collection of Free Movies Online.

Related content:

François Truffaut's Big Interview with Alfred Hitchcock

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Earth-Size Tornadoes On The Sun

What a sight to behold. Earlier this month, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) beamed back stunning images of the sun's plasma moving violently around the star's magnetic field for 30 some hours, creating a tornado as large as the Earth itself, with gusts reaching up to 300,000 miles per hour. That's according to Terry Kucera, a solar physicist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. NPR has more on the makings of solar storms. Find more awe-inspiring footage in our collection of 125 Great Science Videos.

36 Free Oscar Winning Films Available on the Web

LOS ANGELES - JAN 16:  Oscars at the 86th Academy Awards Nominat

How about some hors d'oeuvres meant to accompany the main course, the 2014 Academy Awards? We scouted around the web and found 36 Oscar-winning (or nominated) films from previous years. The list includes many short films, but also some long ones, like Sergei Bondarchuk's epic version of War & Peace. Sit back, enjoy, and let us know if we're missing any other Oscar winners...

Find more films in our collection of 700 Free Movies Online.

  • A Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Double Feature - Free - A precursor to modern music videos, this Oscar-winning animated film by John & Faith Hubley is set to the music of two popular songs recorded by Herb Alpert. (1966)
  • A Story of Healing Free – Won Academy Award for best Documentary Short Subject. Follows a team of volunteers in Vietnam. (1997)
  • Churchill’s Island Free – WWII propaganda film chronicling the defense of Great Britain. Won the very first Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. (1941)
  • Der Fuehrer’s Face – Free – Disney’s anti-Nazi propaganda movie featuring Donald Duck. Won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. (1942)
  • Every Child – Free – Eugene Fedorenko’s animated short about an unwanted baby cared for by a homeless men. Won 1979 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.
  • Father and Daughter Free – Michaël Dudok De Wit’s heartbreaking short won the 2000 Academy Award for Animated Short Film. (2000)
  • Flamenco at 5:15 – Free – Oscar-winning short film about a flamenco dance class given to senior students. (1983)
  • Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life Free - Directed by Peter Capaldi, the Oscar-winning short film shows Kafka, on Christmas Eve, struggling to come up with the opening line for his most famous work, The Metamorphosis. (1993)
  • Glass - Free - Directed by Bert Haanstra, this short documentary about the glass industry won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject in 1959. (1958)
  • Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping BeautyFree – 6 minute animated black comedy. Shortlisted for the 2010 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. (2008)
  • Logorama – Free – François Alaux and Herve de Crecy’s 17 minute film, Logorama, won the Oscar for Short Film (Animated) in 2009.
  • If You Love This Planet – Free – Oscar-winning short film on the need for nuclear disarmament. (1982)
  • I’ll Find a Way – Free – Oscar-winning documentary presents Nadia, a 9-year-old girl with spina bifida. (1977)
  • Is It Right to Be Always Right? - Free - Narrated by Orson Welles, this Oscar-winning film directed by Lee Mishkin is a parable that comments on divisions in the United States. (1970)
  • J’attendrai le suivant – Free – A French film nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Short Film in 2002.
  • Madame Tutli-Putli Free – Oscar-nominated animated short film by Montreal filmmakers Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski. (2010)
  • Neighbors – Free – Norman McLaren animates live actors with techniques normally used to put drawings/puppets into motion. Oscar winner. (1952)
  • Ryan – Free – Oscar-winning animated short from Chris Landreth based on the life of Ryan Larkin, the influential Canadian animator. (2004)
  • Special Delivery – Free – Hilarious story won 1978 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.
  • Superman – Free – Max Fleischer’s short animated movie. Nominated for the 1942 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. (1941)
  • The Cathedral - Free - "The Cathedral" is the title of a sci fi short story by Jacek Dukaj. It was turned into a short animated movie by Tomasz Bagiński and nominated in 2002 for the Academy Award for Animated Short Film. (2002)
  • The Critic - Free - Mel Brooks 1963 animation features an old Yiddish watching abstract animations. Hilarious film won Oscar. (1963)
  • The Danish Poet - Free - Animated short film written, directed, and animated by Torill Kove and narrated by Liv Ullmann, won the Academy Award in 2006.
  • The Dot and the Line - Free - Chuck Jones' animated film celebrates geometry and hard work. (1965)
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris LessmoreFree - Oscar-winning film by Moonbot Studios pays homage to a bygone era when elegantly printed books inhabited our world. (2011)
  • The Hole – Free - A 15-minute animated film by John Hubley and Faith Hubley that won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1962. Features the voice of Dizzy Gillespie. (1962)
  • The Last Farm – Free – Short Icelandic film nominated for Oscar in 2006.
  • The Lunch Date – Free – Adam Davidson’s commentary on race in America. The short film won an Oscar and a prize at Cannes. (1989)
  • The Man with the The Golden Arm Free -- Directed by Otto Preminger. Starring Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak. Nominated for three Academy Awards. (1955)
  • The Old Man and the Sea – Free – Aleksandr Petrov won the Academy Award for Short Film for this film that follows the plot of Ernest Hemingway’s classic 1952 novella. Made of 29,000 images painted on glass. (1999)
  • The Red Balloon - Free - A short fantasy film directed by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse. Won Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and a Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956.
  • The Sand Castle – Free – Short animated film about the sandman and the creatures he sculpts out of sand. 1977 Oscar-winner for Best Animated Short Film.
  • Tin Toy – Free – John Lasseter created this Oscar-winning short film in 1988 at Pixar. It was the beginning of the company’s transition into being a premier animation studio.
  • Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom – Free – Disney’s music education film. First cartoon released in widescreen CinemaScope. Won 1954 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoons). (1953)
  • Walking – Free – Oscar-nominated animated short film by Ryan Larkin. (1969)
  • War & PeaceFree - Soviet director Sergei Bondarchuk turns Tolstoy’s great novel into what Roger Ebert calls “the definitive epic of all time.” Won Academy Award – Best Foreign Language Film in 1969. (1965-1967)
  • Why Man Creates - Free - Saul Bass’ Oscar-winning animation on the nature of creativity. (1963)

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore: Film for Book Lovers Wins Oscar

Remember The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore? The short film we featured a month ago? Well, it won an Oscar tonight for best animated short film, and we're bringing it back for one more showing, plus adding it to our list of Oscar films available online.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore offers a modern tribute to an old world. Made with an animation style that blends stop motion with computer animation and traditional hand-drawing, the silent film pays homage to a bygone era when elegantly printed books inhabited our world. The 15-minute short is the first made by Moonbot Studios, a fledgling animation shop in Shreveport, Louisiana. For their efforts, Moonbot's founders (William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg and Lampton Enochs) received an Oscar-nomination this week (Best Animated Short), putting them in competition with two other films featured on Open Culture: Sunday and Wild Life.

We recommend watching The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore on YouTube, or downloading it for free in HD from iTunes. iPad owners will also want to consider buying the related app ($4.99) that turns the film into an interactive narrative experience.

For more animated bibliophilia, don't miss:

Spike Jonze Presents a Stop Motion Film for Bibliophiles

Books Savored in Stop Motion Film

Going West: A Stop Motion Novel

Books Come to Life in Classic Cartoons from 1930s and 1940s

Dhani Harrison Presents The George Harrison Guitar App for the iPad

About a month back, we featured George Harrison's long lost guitar solo on "Here Comes the Sun," and you went gaga for it. Little did we know that George Harrison's son, Dhani, was just about ready to unveil a new iPad app called The Guitar Collection: George Harrison. It runs $9.99, and it's only available on the iPad, which hardly makes it an instance of Open Culture. But we love The Beatles around here, and the app does something fairly special. It gives you a high-tech introduction to seven George Harrison guitars, using 360° images, sound files, videos, and lots of text and factoids. The video above offers a quick tour of the app. In the video below, Dhani Harrison explains how the the app came together on the Conan O'Brien Show. Thanks for the heads up Liz.

Jim Henson Pilots The Muppet Show with Adult Episode, “Sex and Violence” (1975)

In the early 1970s, Jim Henson was worried that the Muppets were becoming typecast as children's entertainment. So in December of 1974 he produced a pilot episode for The Muppet Show and gave it a name that was about as far away from Sesame Street as you could get: "Sex and Violence."

The half-hour pilot was first broadcast on ABC in March of 1975. It's a fast-moving series of vignettes, featuring a motley cast of characters--many of whom would become familiar in later years--appearing and reappearing throughout. Sam the Eagle, Sgt. Floyd Pepper, The Swedish Chef, Statler and Waldorf, and a wrestler named The San Francisco Earthquake all make an appearance. At one point, Kermit the Frog propositions a female with the line, "I might be able to get you a job on an educational show for kids." The story, to the extent there is one, centers around preparations for a "Seven Deadly Sins Pageant." Alas, the pageant never quite gets off the ground. As Sam the Eagle sagely asks: "Do we really want to get into a 'deadly sins' situation?"

You can watch "Sex and Violence" above, or in three parts here: one, two and three.

H/T Metafilter

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Related Content:

Puppet Making with Jim Henson: A Primer

Jim Henson’s Zany 1963 Robot Film Uncovered by AT&T: Watch Online

Inspirations: A Short Film Celebrating the Mathematical Art of M.C. Escher

Almost two years ago, Spanish filmmaker Cristóbal Vila shot an exquisite little film, Nature by Numbers, which captured the ways in which mathematical concepts (Fibonacci Sequence, Golden Number, etc.) reveal themselves in nature. And the short then clocked a good 2.1 million views on YouTube alone.

This week, Vila returns with a new film called Inspirations. In this case, the inspiration is M.C. Escher (1898-1972), the Dutch artist who explored a wide range of mathematical ideas with his woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. Although Escher had no formal training in mathematics beyond secondary school, many mathematicians counted themselves as admirers of his work. (Visit this online gallery to get better acquainted with Escher's art, and be sure to click on the thumbnails to enlarge the images). As Vila explains, Inspirations tries to imagine Escher's workplace, "what things would surround an artist like him, so deeply interested in science in general and mathematics in particular." It's a three minutes of unbridled imagination.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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