Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jean Vigo: L'Atalante

Joie de vivre and «Cherchez la femme!» Jean Vigo's L'Atalante (1934) finds the woman and the joy despite dodgy moments, jealous fits and oddball characters. Newlyweds Juliette and Jean literally embark on an adventure via L'Atalante, the river barge Jean skippers. The accompanying crew consists of Père Jules, a battered and somehwat barmy veteran of the high seas (like Zorba the Greek with a few extra bats in his belfry), Kid (a boy also not playing with a full deck -- akin to Billy in The Last Picture Show), and a slew of Jules' cats. In addition, Jules has in his cabin a storehouse of bizarre artifacts from his patchwork life. 

Vigo's depiction of life on a river barge adeptly captures the mix of adventure, excitement, boredom and claustrophobia that often emerges in a marriage or similar intimate relationship. Boris Kaufman's cinematography will look familiar to anyone who's seen On the Waterfront (1954) or many a black and white French New Wave film.  L'Atlalante is an early gem. As of 2012, the 89 minute Criterion (2011) restored version is the way to go. It's available as part of The Complete Jean Vigo (The Criterion Collection), 2011.  

Today's Rune: Joy.

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

A wonderful film.