Jean Vigo had bad health since he was a child. Son of anarchist militant Miguel Almareyda, he also never really recovered from his father’s mysterious death in jail when he was 12. Abandoned by his mother, he passed from boarding school to boarding school. Aged 23, through meetings with people involved in the movies, he started working in the cinema, then bought a camera and shot his first film, a short documentary, À propos de Nice (1930) then, two years later, Taris, roi de l’eau (1931) (aka Taris champion de natation). These two very personal works frighten the producers, and it lasted two years before someone showed some interest in his project of a children movie. This would be his masterpiece, Zéro de conduite: Jeunes diables au collège (1933) (aka Zero for Conduct), a subversive despiction of an authoritarian boarding school, which directly came from Vigo’s memories. The film is straightaway censored for its “anti-French spirit.” In despair, he nevertheless shot L’atalante (1934), a romantic and realistic story of a young couple beginning their life together in a barge. He died just afterward of septicemy. His work would not be recognized before 1945. This accursed filmmaker is now admired for his poetic realism. — IMDb
Labeling this film as a romance is not exactly correct, because Jean Vigo had already achieved something more than a typical romance. L’atalante, combining the mundane and realistic portrayal of life with stylized and sometimes rich surreal visual moments, is a beautiful and thought provoking look into the ups and downs in marriages, also a simple yet effective look into into one of very crucial parts of every human being, love. The balance between the dramatic, harsh and hopelessness part (such as the conflict between Jean and Juliette, how they separated but then such longing feelings are formed) with subtle, absurd comic and amusing portion is something that heighten this into the level of human drama.
À propos de Nice
Jean Vigo’s direction and Boris Kaufman’s innovative, inventive, creative, and dazzling photography make this such a delight treat to watch, using bizarre camera angle to capture a rebellious, amusing and meticulously crafted examination of society in Nice, and also a satire to the bourgeoisie. To describe this in words itself’s hard, so watch it because i think what Vigo meant by this is that image speaks louder than words, and even everything.
Zéro de conduite: Jeunes diables au collège
Zero for conduct,even for me not Vigo’s best, is still an interesting thing to watch. A chaotic, (and again) rebellious piece of cinema about children against their authoritarian teachers, later became inspiration for French New Wave.
Taris, roi de l’eau
More than just a swiming lesson, Vigo, again with his director of photography Boris Kaufman, has created breathtakingly beautiful and also unique and genuine technical marvel. And they sure loved their underwater shots.Read less