Yanelys Nuñez Leyva
HAVANA TIMES — Interestingly, I was first exposed to Francois Truffaut not through cinema but through painting.
At the beginning of the year, while studying the work of Cuban artist Antonio Nuñez (1971), I came across a series produced in 2009, in which different scenes from films by Buñuel, Godard, Truffaut and others are rendered on canvas.
Though I had heard of this filmmaker’s importance within the French New Wave, I hadn’t seriously sought out his films before seeing these paintings.
As luck would have it, Cuba’s Cinematheque screened a number of Truffaut’s films in January. This information also reached me by accident and, luckily, I was able to see two of his extraordinary films: Stolen Kisses (1968) and Bed and Board (1970).
Part of a group of films whose main character was Truffaut’s alter-ego Antoine Duanel, these movies narrate two periods in the life of this young dreamer, capturing the different ups-and-downs of the journey in which one discovers oneself as the world and human relations begin to reveal themselves.
Afterwards, I was able to get my hands on Truffaut’s classic The 400 Blows (1959), starring a teenage and loveless Antoine Duanel, masterfully portrayed by Truffaut’s favorite actor, Jean Pierre-Leaud.
Seeing these films, Nuñez’ paintings came back to me and the artist’s insinuations, subtleties and silences became all the more clear to me.
Antoine’s mother kissing a man on the street, Duanel’s pursuit of a woman, while working as a detective…the large-format paintings are covered by an explosion of colored papers, a kind of confetti that gives the canvas the appearance of a collage, bathing the characters, making the scenes and surroundings peculiar and every image mysteriously illegible.
According to Nuñez, these and other films of the sort reminded him a lot of Cuba while living in Germany, not only because of their gray atmospheres, beat-up streets and dilapidated architecture (all very typical of Italian Neo-Realism and the French New Wave), but also because of the slow pace of classic Cuban films, that spirit that “makes the ties that appear provisional eternal.”.
 One of the final lines in Francois Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses.