In Jean Vigo’s hands, an unassuming tale of conjugal love becomes an achingly romantic reverie of desire and hope. Jean (Jean Dasté), a barge captain, marries Juliette (Dita Parlo), an innocent country girl, and the two climb aboard Jean’s boat, the L’Atalante—otherwise populated by an earthy first mate (Michel Simon) and a multitude of mangy cats—and embark on their new life together. Both a surprisingly erotic idyll and a clear-eyed meditation on love, L’Atalante, Vigo’s only feature-length work, is a film like no other. –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
A pair of stunning giant posters for Dreyer’s masterpiece, and other over-sized posters by the artist René Péron.
Also: J Hoberman on film culture now. L’Atalante in London. Projects in the works and more.
Films by Fassbinder and Eisenstein are also out this week on DVD and Blu-ray.
Back in 1990 I had just moved to New York and was interning at New Yorker Films. They had just picked up the restored version of Jean Vigo
Hollywood primarily, but most global cinema has traduced, commodified and cheapened the notion of romantic love for most of the medium’s existence, but if proof is needed that cinema can also create… read review
I saw this for the first time recently – Outstanding and well worthy of the arthouse praise frequently heaped upon it. Amazing photography – great use of overhead shots and close ups/ natural lighting… read review