Jean Vigo – Zéro de conduite AKA Zero for conduct (1933)


from allmovie

The shortest of French filmmaker Jean Vigo’s two feature-length films, Zero for Conduct (Zero de Conduite) is also arguably his most influential. The overtly autobiographical plotline takes place at a painfully strict boys’ boarding school, presided over by such petit-bourgeous tyrants as a discipline-dispensing dwarf. The students revolt against the monotony of their daily routine by erupting into a outsized pillow fight. Their final assault occurs during a prim-and-proper school ceremony, wherein the headmasters are bombarded with fruit. Like all of Vigo’s works, Zero for Conduct was greeted with outrage by the “right” people. Thanks to pressure from civic and educational groups, this exhilaratingly anarchistic film was banned from public exhibition until 1945. Among the future filmmakers influenced by Zero for Conduct was Lindsay Anderson, who unabashedly used the Vigo film as blueprint for his own anti-establishment exercise If…. Continue reading

Jean Vigo – L’Atalante (1934)


Roger Ebert @ Chicago Sun-Times, October 2000 wrote:

To live happily ever after with the one you love, you must be able to live with them at all. It is not that simple. Little problems must be worked out. She does not like cats on the table while she is eating. He has a closet filled with a year’s dirty laundry. She treasures their private moments together. He treasures his best friend, who is bearded and garrulous and arrives at meals in an undershirt. She wants to see Paris. He worries about his work. You see how it is.

Jean Vigo’s “L’Atalante” (1934) tells such a love story. It is on many lists of the greatest films, a distinction that obscures how down to earth it is, how direct in its story of a new marriage off to a shaky start. The French director Francois Truffaut fell in love with it one Saturday afternoon in 1946, when he was 14: “When I entered the theater, I didn’t even know who Jean Vigo was. I was immediately overwhelmed with wild enthusiasm for his work.” Hearing a critic attack another movie because “it smells like dirty feet,” Truffaut considered that a compliment, and thought of Vigo and the pungent life he evoked on a French canal barge. Continue reading