Jean Vigo was twenty-five when he made this, his debut film, a silent cinematic poem that reveals, through a thrilling and ironic use of montage, the economic reality hidden behind the facade of the Mediterranean resort town of Nice. The first of Vigo’s several collaborations with cinematographer Boris Kaufman (Dziga Vertov’s brother and a future Oscar winner), À propos de Nice is both a scathing and invigorating look at 1930 French culture. –The Criterion Collection
As the son of notorious French anarchist Eugene Bonaventure de Vigo (aka Miguel Almereyda), young Jean Vigo and his family were obliged to stay on the move, usually under assumed names. After his father was found dead in his prison cell in 1917, Vigo attended boarding school under the name Jean Sales. A tuberculosis victim, Vigo moved to Nice to recuperate in 1929. While on the mend, he directed his first film, the surrealist A propos de Nice (1930). His next project was the 11-minute Taris, a documentary about France’s reigning swimming champion. Zero de conduite (1932), Vigo’s third film (at 45 minutes, it was not quite a short but not exactly a feature), combined the absurd qualities of his first picture with the straight-on realities of the second. The naturalistic central setting of a dismal, restrictive boys’ school is undercut with the absurdity of a pint-sized instructor, a World War I-style pillow fight, and a wish-fulfillment climactic scene in which the schoolboys pelt their… read more
Vigo's tragically curtailed career began with this short avant-garde documentary, one of the most acclaimed ot its time. The film is an impression of Nice that was intended to alert audiences to the differences between the rich on the Promenade and the poor on the back streets. Kaufman was the cinematographer on this and all of Vigo's films and he would go on to have a successful and distinguished career in America..