François Truffaut was born outside of wedlock on the 6th February 1932. He never met his real father and was brought up by a mother, Janine (who resented him) and her husband, Truffaut¹s adoptive father, Roland Truffaut. In a difficult and rebellious childhood, he sought escape in reading avidly and frequent trips to the cinema. His passion for films led him to found a cinema club when he was 16, but that resulted in debt, trouble with the police, and alienation from his parents. A few years later, during his military service, he deserted and spent some time in a military prison in Germany.
With the support of the critic André Bazin, his luck changed and in the 1950s he began a career as a successful, if controversial, film critic for Les Cahiers du cinéma. He condemned the old guard of French cinema and proposed a new vision, which he would go on to realise with his friends, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and others: the New Wave.
His first film in 1959, Les Quatre Cents Coups, was an instant success, winning him a prize at the Cannes Film Festival. This, and his following films, were in marked contrast to most French films of the time, using improvisation, fairly crude editing, location filming, and having a fairly small budget. His best film, Jules et Jim, was released in 1961, and is now regarded as a classic of French cinema, with Jeanne Moreau as the tragic lover Catherine.
In the mid 1960s, Truffaut¹s career slowed as he struggled to get Farenheit 451 off the ground and he laboured on his biography of his hero, Alfred Hitchcock. His career as a director picked up in the late 1960s and early 1970s with a string of successful and impressive films, including Baisers volés (Stolen Kisses), Les deux anglaises et le continent and La nuit américaine (for which he received an Oscar in 1973).
His latter films of the 1980s were generally less successful but still demonstrated Truffaut¹s capacity to create moving and impressive films.
As well as a director, he was also a creditable actor, appearing in several of his own films (most notably in L¹enfant sauvage). He also starred in Spielberg¹s 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Most of Truffaut¹s films had a semi-biographical element, reflecting his life and his moods. A passionate and outspoken man, he was strongly attracted to women, and had close relationships with many of his actresses, particularly Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant (who ultimately bore him a child).
Shortly after completing his final film, Vivement dimanche!, Truffaut was diagnosed as having a brain tumour in 1983 and, after a slow decline, died in an American hospital at Neuilly in France on 21 October 1984, at the age of 52.