Jean Vigo films (1930-34)

I don’t know why I didn’t get L’Atalante upon first viewing. Maybe ’twas the low-grade VHS tape I rented, or maybe I was drowsy or impatient, but now I see it’s almost as beautiful and twisted a love story as Sunrise.

Provincial girl marries a barge captain passing through town then finds that spending life on the boat with his two assistants is less excitingly romantic than she’d imagined. Tension mounts between the captain and the gruff-looking but tender Jules leading the girl to flee the ship to see Paris on her own. But she doesn’t fare well and the captain goes into a depression, so Jules goes and finds her for a tearful reunion finale.

Not the fault of the video, I guess, because many shots were out of focus on the 35mm print. Must’ve been rough to do so much location shooting in 1934. So many other gorgeous shots and ideas scattered throughout that it’s easy to overlook technical shortcomings. Movie holds a poetic, dreamy state throughout, and the ending seems deserved despite the captain being kinda unlikeable most of the time.

Jean Dasté got small roles in Jean Renoir films, and many years later, larger roles in Francois Truffaut films. He was also the sympathetic teacher in Zero For Conduct.
image

Dita Parlo appeared in Grand Illusion and didn’t do much acting after the 30’s.
image

Michel Simon was more well-known, starring in The Two of Us, Rene Clair’s Faust, Port of Shadows and at least three by Renoir. Jacques Rivette did a 100-minute Cinéastes de notre temps with him in ’66.
image

Cats are thrown at people from offscreen, an obvious influence on Dario Argento.
image

Happy ending:
image

Zero For Conduct, by contrast, was less anarchic hilarity and slightly more tedious than I remembered it. Still a fun boarding school romp with good characters (the dwarf headmaster, the head-standing supervisor played by Dasté who is on the kids’ side from the start) and great portrayal of repressive school life, friendships and rivalries and minor (and in the end, major) rebellions.

image

image

I watched the above two at Emory on 35mm last November but delayed posting this until now because I wanted to go through the rest of the Artificial Eye DVD.

I dug the Cinéastes de notre temps episode by Jacques Rozier (new-wave filmmaker with Adieu Philippine, also shot some of the stuff on the Contempt DVD and the Cinéastes episode on Bunuel excerpted on the Viridiana DVD). 90 minutes of Vigo stories and interviews with the three L’Atalante leads thirty years later. Michel Simon looks the same, and Dita Parlo is very recognizable when she smiles. Now that I know what Jean Daste looked like in the mid-60’s, I’ll look out for him in The War Is Over. Didn’t realize that Jean Vigo knew Jean Painleve… and Painleve has an indirect connection to Oskar Fischinger.

Not much to say about the two shorts. The Jean Taris doc has some cool photography, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth watching over and over. The Nice doc is more creative, has lots of cool photography, and is definitely worth watching over and over.

Jean Taris, swimming champion:
image

À propos de Nice
image

Related posts