Jean Vigo

Jean Vigo

The great French director Jean Vigo had only completed four films that can be watched in a span of under three hours and yet the small amount of work that he created has been some of the most influential of early French cinema. His early filmmaking auteur helped establish the aesthetics of Poetic Realism during the 1930’s, while ultimately becoming a posthumous influence on the French New Wave movement in the 50’s and 60’s. Vigo is noted for two influential films which affected the future development of both French and world cinema: Zero De Conduite (1933) and L’Atalante (1934). L’Atalante, which can be looked at as a cautionary tale on young love, was Vigo’s last and longest film and it is also considered his finest. It was reworked from a script that the filmmaker did not originate and also was made while Vigo was very ill; even bedridden with tuberculosis. Vigo unfortunately died at age twenty-nine which was a few weeks before it was released. The release was horribly mutilated and transformed and the distributor trimmed it by ten minutes, changed the title and even imposed a pop song and it became a commercial failure. L’Atalante and all of Vigo’s work was mostly forgotten by the late 1930s, despite L’Atalante being partially restored in 1940 and over the years Vigo’s work began to be rediscovered after World War II. His films and his style have gained a better reputation over the decades, especially L’Atalante because of its powerful and conventional love story. Zero De Conduite is considered a classic as well, telling a story of four rebellious young boys at a repressive French boarding school who plot and execute a revolt against their teachers and take over the school. When originally released Zero De Conduite was banned because of how Vigo depicted a repressive and bureaucratised educational establishment in which surreal acts of rebellion occur; which greatly reflected Vigo’s view of his childhood. L’Atalante and Zéro for conduct were both re-released in New York in July 1947 and suddenly received rave reviews from film critic such as James Agee, who called Vigo “one of the very few real originals who have ever worked in film.” L’Atalante became a favorite of the filmmakers of the French New Wave, whose films contain many allusions to Vigo’s work. The legendary French director Francois Truffaut fell in love with it when he saw it at age 14 in 1946 saying, “When I entered the theater, I didn’t even know who Jean Vigo was. I was immediately overwhelmed with wild enthusiasm for his work.”



Jean Vigo
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Articles and Essays on Jean Vigo

L’Atalante (1934)

The great director Jean Vigo had only completed four films that can be watched in a span of under three hours. And yet the work that he created has been some of the most influential of all French films and even started the path towards The French New Wave. L’Atalante, which can be looked at […]

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Jean Vigo
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