cinema history enthusiasts, the name Jean Vigo is one of legend.His career in France was brief, brilliant,
and controversial.In the early 1930s he
made one short silent documentary, a short sound documentary, and two (later)
critically-acclaimed and important feature films.Then he died of tuberculosis.
a period when Jean Renoir was the king of French cinema, Vigo refused to play
by the rules and created—at the time—very noncommercial products that would
outlive the filmmaker and influence others, especially practitioners of the
French New Wave.Francois Truffaut, in
one of the excellent extras in this fabulous new set from The Criterion
Collection, describes how he first saw L’Atalante
(1934) as a child and his life was forever changed.He admits that much of his own work owes a
lot to Vigo and that singular work of early naturalism.
was controversial in his day for following in the surrealist footsteps of his
cronies, Luis Buñuel and Jean Cocteau, and then for daring to film a love story
that was too realistic for audiences of the time.In many ways, L’Atalante was a French slice of Italian Neo-realism that appeared
a decade earlier.
two-disk set, the first disk contains the four films:A
Propos de Nice (1930), which intercuts travelogue and daily street life of
the city with absurdist, surreal imagery; Taris
(1931), a short portrait of a champion swimmer; Zero de Conduite (Zero for
Conduct) (1933), a precursor to Lindsay Anderson’s If… in that it’s about a rebellion in a boys’ boarding school; and
the true showcase of the collection, L’Atalante,
a ultra-realistic story of an odd marriage and the honeymoon aboard a working
barge.The second disk contains a
plethora of fascinating extras, including the aforementioned vintage interview
with Truffaut, a television documentary about Vigo from the 1960s, a history of
L’Atalante’s tortured release
history, and more.And don’t forget the
usual top-notch and informative booklet full of essays.
collection is probably not for everyone, but the true film buffs out there are
going to eat this one up.
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