Spring 2019 Film Series:

The Complete Jean Vigo

featuring the definitive restoration of L’Atalante

Even among cinema’s legends, Jean Vigo stands apart. The son of a notorious anarchist, Vigo had a brief but brilliant career making poetic, lightly surrealist films before his life was tragically cut short by tuberculosis at age 29. Like the daring early works of his contemporaries Jean Cocteau and Luis Buñuel, Vigo’s films refused to play by the rules.

The five films in this series comprise the entirety of Jean Vigo’s cinematic output (about four hours total): three short films (Zero for Conduct, À propos de Nice & Taris), one feature (L’Atalante), and a collection of outtakes and rushes (Tournage d’Hiver). Each one of these films is a canonical work of art in its own right, but together, they signify the work of someone who had fully mastered the art of cinema before reaching thirty. Tournage d’Hiver, in particular, proves to be an enlightening experience, as its assemblage of outtakes from L’Atalante and Zero for Conduct is given shape by French film critic Bernard Einsenschitz, supervisor of the definitive new L’Atalante restoration. The film tells the story of a captain on the river barge, the L’Atalante, and his new bride, which in Vigo’s hands becomes “a sublime depiction of love, erotic attraction, friendship and the mysteries of daily life.” (Kristin M. Jones, The Wall Street Journal)

Vigo is perhaps most well-known for Zero for Conduct (1933), a surreal satire in which students stage an uprising at a sinister boarding school. The portrayal of youthful rebellion, which was banned in France until 1945, influenced many filmmakers, including François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) and Lindsay Anderson’s If… (1968). À propos de Nice (1930), “a witty, subversive, visually dynamic city portrait, bears affinities to Soviet films such as Man With a Movie Camera (1929) by Dziga Vertov …. [and] Taris (1931), an exuberant tribute to a champion swimmer—commissioned by Germaine Dulac—ends with Taris, wearing a coat and bowler hat, seeming to walk away on water.”

All of Vigo’s films were shot by the talented cinematographer Boris Kaufman, the brother of Dziga Vertov, who went on to win an Oscar for his work on Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954).

Cosponsored with the French Studies Program and the Society for the Humanities.