This week I wanted to discuss the idea of a story within a story; or, in this case, a movie within a movie. I watched the movie What Time Is It There? [IMC DVD 128.46 W324 2002], which shows the main character watching scenes from the movie 400 Blows [IMC DVD 791.437 F773 2006], so I thought it would be interesting to watch that movie as well to see what connection the two films had.
The movie What Time is it There? is a very quirky Chinese Film which follows two different characters who happened to meet and discuss watches. The one character, a watch street vendor named Hsiao-kang, meets a girl interested in buying a watch. She is about to go abroad to Paris, but can’t find anything she likes, except his watch. She convinces him to sell it to her, even though he is concerned it will bring her back luck, because he is currently in mourning. Their lives take opposite paths, but he becomes obsessed with Paris time and setting his life to match hers. One such interaction takes him to a video street vendor, who sells him a French movie (400 Blows). I happened to recognize the scene from the film class I had taken, and decided to watch 400 Blows as well.
400 Blows tells the story about a boy who always seems to be in trouble. It finally catches up with him, and he is sent to a reform institute, where we learn more about his background. It is interesting that this is the film chosen to be played in the movie What Time is it There? because both movies deal with loneliness in their own way. Antoine, the boy in 400 Blows, is constantly berated by his mother, and never receives any positive feedback at school. As a result, he spends most of his time with his best friend, roaming the streets of Paris. This was a very good movie, and has several iconic scenes, including the spinning scene, which is reminiscent of an early animation device called the zoetrope.
It was very interesting to watch both movies and attempt to see the parallels between them. What Time is it There? Is a difficult movie to watch at parts, but it portrays the feeling and effect of loneliness astonishingly well. 400 Blows was another movie that dealt with some serious topics, but overall had a much lighter tone.
Currently the IMC is hosting a time travel display, but as the holidays are just around the corner, we will soon be switching over to highlight our holiday movie collection. Don’t forget to keep following along on our film travelogue adventure at https://letterboxd.com/peterstanley/list/1001-movies-you-must-see-before-you-die/ .