So effervescent and charming that one can easily forget its importance in film history, Jean Vigo’s enormously influential portrait of prankish boarding-school students is one of cinema’s great acts of rebellion. Based on the director’s own experiences as a youth, Zéro de conduite presents childhood as a time of unfettered imagination and brazen rule-flouting. It’s a sweet-natured vision of sabotage made vivid by dynamic visual experiments—including the famous, blissful slow-motion pillow fight. –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
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