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 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. It tells the story about a newlywed couple who embark on a journey and seem to discover that love and marriage isn't so simple as they originally thought it would be. The version of the film presented on the new Criterion DVD and blu ray aims to be as true as possible to the original version and is truly a sight to behold. Throughout the decades L' Atalante has grown in stature and now many critics and audiences claim L'Atalante to be one of the greatest films in the world and it is a film that is usually compared along the likes of Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game, Orson Welles Citizen Kane, Vittoria De Sica's Bicycle Thieves and Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. L’Atalante is a film that contains the whole world, and involves such universal themes as work and play, love and jealousy, dreams and adventure, and heartbreak and reconciliation. It was a film made by an artist who seemed to know he was going to die and intended it to be his final love letter to the world. In one of the most poetic shots of the film a love-stricken husband jumps into the icy canal, and while under the water he has a vision of his lost wife dressed in her wedding gown, who is floating beautifully like a ghost, as novelist Marina Warner wrote, "This must count as one of the most dazzling images of a loving woman in the history of the cinema."
Jean (Jean Dasté), captain of the canal barge L'Atalante, has a new wife who he's hardly met named Juliette (Dita Parlo) first meeting her in Juliette's provincial town. The opening shot shows the barge L'Atalante outside Juliette's home town during their wedding. Everyone in the village is celebrating their sudden marriage as Juliette and Jean walk out of the church with the towns people following them."To think she's never even left the village. Couldn't she marry a local boy? She always has to be different. She's tired of village life," gossips many of the townspeople. (The newlyweds' march from the church to Jean's boat is filmed in a discontinuous style that anticipates the films of the French New Wave.)
Jean's first mate Jules (Michel Simon) and a young boy who is Jules skipper get ready to welcome the two lovers when they aboard Jean's barge L'Atalante. "What do you say to the bride?" asks Jules to the skipper. The skipper says, "What you said. I go up to the missus and say, 'wishing you a happy life aboard L'Atalante." When the two new lovers arrive Jules and the skipper play music but the young skipper accidentally kicks the flowers in the ocean that he is ordered to give to the new bride. The skipper runs off quickly to pick more flowers and when he does he quickly gives them to the bride right on time of her arrival.
Jean tells Jules to start and take off the barge. Everyone in the village watches as they all sail off in the L'Atalante, and while Juliette is watching the beauties of the sea Jean grabs her from behind. They embrace and kiss but one of Jules cats that he has on the barge jumps at Juliette and even scratches Jean's face.
The couple embark on a trip between Le Havre and Paris which functions doubly as a cargo delivery and as their makeshift honeymoon. The next morning before Juliette awakens, Jules says to the skipper, "Lets do this properly and wake the misses with a song!" as Juliette wakes up with the skipper playing music from his accordion.
Tensions start to rise when Juliette and Jean complain of Jules several cats with one of them giving birth to kittens on their bed. Jean says to Jules, "you and your filthy cats. Come look what they did on our bed." Jules angrily says, "there not as filthy as you and not as dumb either. A lot less dumb."
Juliette starts getting frustrated with her new husbands domestic habits as she complains about his dirty clothes. She says, "Do you do wash once a year? Well that's going to change" The skipper comes to grab Jules wash and he tells Jules that Juliette is going to wash his clothes which surprises and bothers him. Jules at first refuses not to give Juliette his clothes and says to Jean, "I washed my own feet before she got here!"
While Jean is watching his face in a pail of water his wife tells him that when he puts his head under the water he should close his eyes because it is believed that he will be able to see his beloved. She says she saw him last year and that's how she recognized him when he first came to her home. He tries multiple times but he says he can't see her as they playfully start wrestling aboard the boat. There's a funny scene with Jules watching the both of them wrestling and he decides to demonstrate how he can wrestle too as he grapples with himself on the deck as the two lovers laugh and walk away.
The next few days on L'Atalante Juliette starts to find herself getting bored. She wants to know when they will reach a big city because she is getting tired of being on the barge. When she hears about Paris on the radio she is fascinated to see it but her husband doesn't think it's a good idea to and she throws a fit and walks off on another part of the barge.
When L'Atalante gets stuck in a thick fog, Jean seems to not be able to find his wife. When he does the two of them have a quarrel and when Jules asks if anything is wrong Jean rudely tells him to get back to work. Jules angrily says to them, "I've had about enough of him and his Juliette. 'get to work'. Does she grease the engine? All day long, it's either smoohin' or squabblin!"
Later for dinner Jules arrives late with him still sulking about earlier. Jean leaves up onboard with the skipper to start the engine of the barge and Juliette walks off to sew a dress in her room.
Jules comes in and is curious on her sewing and he demands to try the sewing machine. He is able to learn it very easily and Juliette tells him he's a jack of all trades. In an odd scene, Juliette playfully pushes Jules down and he seems to get so angry that he seems almost ready to assault her, but she distracts him with the dress she is making, and gets him to model for it. While modeling for the dress Jules starts ranting and naming all the places he has recently traveled to as the skipper comes down to tell Jules that they finally arrived in the city of Paris.
Bored on being shut in Juliette walks into Jules cabin and is entranced by all the interesting sexual paintings, artifacts and puppets that he has collected over the years throughout all his travels. Interestingly Jules shows her an exotic knife and cuts himself and it shocks Juliette, but not as much as when she sees a hand of a friend of his that he keeps in a jar for rememberance. She then notices Jules tattoos and is very interested in them and so Jules strips shirtless to show off all his tattoos. He then acts silly and shows her a trick with his cigarette as he sticks it in his bellybutton and then decides to play the accordian for Juliette.
They both get really comfortable with each other and she starts combing his hair until Jean walks in and is furious at what he sees. "What the hell are you two doing?" yells Jules in a frantic rage. "And it stinks in here! Filthy cats!" Juliette starts to laugh at her husbands ridiculous behavior and he smacks her saying, "I forbid you to come in here. And don't look at me like that." Jean creates a tantrum and starts smashing and throwing things all throughout the room. Juliette says she is bored and she wishes her husband would take her out on the town for once. He agrees and calms down and decides he will show her the sights and she gets excited and quickly starts picking out what to wear.
Jules and the skipper decide to leave the barge too and when out Jules goes to see a palm reader/prostitute. Jean tells his wife that since Jules went out that they have to wait for his return because no one will be here to watch the barge and that greatly frustrates her; knowing they probably now won't go out.
Hours pass and when Jules arrives back on the L'Atalante late that evening drunk he wakes Jean up and Jean angrily grabs Jules and carries him to his cabin to sleep it off. Jean at first decides to cast off and leave Paris because of Jules' behavior but it greatly disappoints Juliette and so he decides to stay and to take her dancing the next day at the 'Quatre Nations.'
When the two arrive there a street peddler welcomes the two as he starts singing to Juliette and even takes her dancing which frustrates her husband. "You really don't know Paris? I could teach you all sorts of things," says the street peddler to Juliette as he gives her a scarf as a gift.
Jean finally has had enough and pushes the man down and he grabs his wife and the two leave. Jean takes her back to the barge and says, "At least here you'll behave." Jean then selfishly decides to leave his wife on L'Atalante and he goes on the town by himself.
A few hours later the street peddler comes by the boat and calls out to Juliette and when she sees him he says, "I've come to apologize and say good-bye with a tune." The street peddler returns the scarf he originally gave her earlier and asks her, "I'll be in Paris tonight. Want to come? I'll take you." When Jean returns and sees the street peddler again he pushes the guy off the boat and throws his instruments out onto the pavement.
That evening while in her room Juliette is thinking about the street peddler and how he promised her he would be in the city and show her around. Jean knows his wife is very entranced and enamored with the lights of Paris and greatly bored by the barge life. And so he decides he is going to have them all leave and he tells his wife that she won't see Paris anytime soon.
Before they leave Juliette decides to sneak out off the L'Atalante and when Jean goes to check on her to find her bed empty he angrily tells Jules that he wants to leave la Villette that night anyways even without his wife.
Jules says they planned to be there for three days and when Jean informs him that his wife ran off Jules says she will probably be back in 5 minutes or tomorrow. Jean angrily says, "Tomorrow? Five minutes and I wouldn't take her back." Juliette gets lost in the big city and finds herself wandering in the mainland.
While getting a ticket for Corbeil a thief steals her purse but gets rid of it before getting attacked by a mob of civilians. Now Juliette's joy and curiosity for the unknown turns to fear as she now broke, stranded and has nowhere to go. She eventually tries to find work and deversion but Paris is no longer magical to her and she notices dark streets of poverty and crime.
Jean and the rest of the crew decide to sail off without Juliette and Jules slips into a near-catatonic depression because he misses his wife. Jules tries to revive him by playing a game of checkers and by repairing the boat's phonograph to no avail.
In one of the most poetic shots of the film a depressed Jean jumps into the icy canal. Earlier in the film when Juliette told Jean that when she put her face into water and opened her eyes, she could see her true love; well the miracle finally happens to him. While under the water Jean can see Juliette floating beautifully and ghost like in her wedding gown as she gives her husband a tender smile. Novelist Marina Warner wrote, "This must count as one of the most dazzling images of a loving woman in the history of the cinema."
When Jean climbs back on board Jules and the skipper are looking for him thinking he might have drowned.
That evening Jules and the skipper give Jean warm clothes and try to comfort him during his mental breakdown. That night there's an interesting montage of Jean and Juliette both trying to get some sleep in separate locations and the two of them cannot sleep as they role around in their beds thinking about one another.
When L'Atalante arrives at Le Havre Jean still is in the middle of his nervous breakdown and takes off running out to the beach while many of the visitors are looking at him as a drunken sailor. Jules quickly grabs Jean and says, "We got to get back. Head office wants to see us. We got a summons. And who'll straighten it out? Me, as usual! All because of that hussy."
After Jules sees the Head Office he later tells the skipper that the Head Office almost fired Jean so Jules realizes he has to go find his wife to bring back Jean's sanity. When Jules eventually finds Juliette she is happy as he picks her up and carries her back to L'Atalante. When the skipper informs Jean that Jules has found his lost wife, Jean quickly fixes himself up and shaves to try to look nice for his wife's happy return.
They finally reunite and embrace one another as the last shot of the film is an overhead shot of the L'Atalante sailing in the ocean.
A man and a woman are married in a small town. The wedding procession follows them to a canal barge, of which he is the master. His crew, an old salt and a young boy, await them there. The couple adjust to married life uneasily: she doesn’t feel quite at home on the barge; he is jealous of anyone she talks to and anything she does that doesn’t involve him. There are a few terrible scenes. Then they are separated—partly by accident and partly by design. They both spend a difficult interval, and then they are reunited.
That is all that really happens in L’Atalante (1934), and yet the movie can feel as though it contains the whole world. The last film completed by Jean Vigo before his death from tuberculosis at twenty-nine—he died soon after the movie ended its first, commercially bleak run—L’Atalante took decades to receive its due. Vigo had made only one other feature, Zéro de conduite (1933), which was banned until 1945 for outrages to the educational system. As a consequence, his producer, the independent Jacques-Louis Nounez, while agreeing to finance another picture, insisted on selecting the property himself. He chose a banal story by one Jean Guinée that concerned the romance and hardship of the lives of barge dwellers. It was a topic in vogue just then, inspiring a number of popular songs, including Damia’s great “Chanson de halage” and Lys Gauty’s “Le chaland qui passe”—the latter of which the distributors insisted on wedging into Vigo’s picture, which they retitled after the song, although neither of those intrusions particularly enhanced its prospects.
Those songs came out of the réaliste surge that dominated French popular music in the 1930s—tough, unsparing narratives of crime, prostitution, life on the street and the waterfront. The decade, scarred at birth by the worldwide crash, was a hard time filled with labor strife, unemployment, political clashes, and fear of what was going on in Germany, Italy, and Spain. Popular culture in general tended toward the acerbic and fatalistic when it was not numbly saccharine. Movies, too, could be escapist and bland, but those that were not were stunning, an extraordinary run of pictures often retroactively herded under the banner of “poetic realism,” from René Clair’s Under the Roofs of Paris (1930) to Marcel Carné’s Le jour se lève (1939). Those movies combined a romantic outlook and a propensity for dreamy musing with an unblinking view of the torn social fabric. They reflected the twinned influences of surrealism and the Soviet modernist filmmakers in their coupling of transcendence and grit—their heady, plunging views and their insistent inclusiveness. They were made by people who truly inhabited their time, who could not separate public from private or subjective from objective.
L’Atalante stands right in the middle of this run. Its blending of the real and the fantastic is so silken it can almost pass unnoticed, which is what led early viewers to undervalue it. James Agee, who was agog at the daring of Zéro de conduite when both movies were released in the United States in 1947, could term L’Atalante merely “spasmodically great poetry applied to pretty good prose,” which in contrast to the freedom of the earlier picture “suggests the strugglings of a maniac in a straitjacket.” Viewers looking for shock could easily miss the radical restraint of L’Atalante, which in any other filmmaker’s oeuvre could have come a decade after Zéro de conduite rather than a year. When, for example, the couple are apart and the image cuts between them lying in their separate beds, the erotic charge is potent if ghostly—as if the film were a phenakistoscope, the early optical device that relies on persistence of vision to overlay two images, the illusion that they are in the same bed is both there and not. The outrageously lyrical sight of the bride swinging on the barge’s boom in her nuptial gown is handled with such matter-of-fact brevity that it almost slips by as another item in the boarding process. Meanwhile, all of Vigo’s anarchist dynamite is off-loaded onto Père Jules, the old mate who is at once the movie’s conscience and its comic relief.
Michel Simon, who plays Père Jules, had two years earlier appeared as the title character in Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932), and his role here echoes that of the nature-boy tramp there, just more articulate and with a sailor’s life of place-names. He has experienced every sort of corruption of the flesh in his travels and emerged from it all wise, even parental, but lawless as an infant. Simon was only thirty-nine when L’Atalante was made, but he’d been playing much older men since at least Renoir’s La chienne (1931). With Simon, you begin to think that only his good nature and his political convictions prevented him from walking off with every picture he appeared in; while the other actors act, here as everywhere else, Simon gives the impression that he alone is free to play. The other principals in L’Atalante are no slouches, though. Dita Parlo, as Juliette, the bride, was making her first movie in France after six years of popular success in her native Germany. Jean Dasté, as Jean, the barge master, who played Huguet the master in Zéro de conduite, had made only two movies before, that one and Boudu Saved from Drowning, but he was to go on to a long and distinguished career, including appearances in multiple films by Renoir, Resnais, and Truffaut. Both actors here are exquisitely tuned to the correct degree of intensity.
The cameraman was Boris Kaufman, Dziga Vertov’s brother, who shot all of Vigo’s pictures (save the short Taris), and you can see the Russian avant-garde eye of the time in every outdoor shot, constantly finding angles that throw the viewer into a new rapport with the setting but without a trace of gimmickry. The documentary aspect of the shooting isn’t overstated, but the picture clearly shows its kinship with movies by Joris Ivens and others covering labor and landscape between the wars. The surrealist aesthetic is pervasive—Père Jules’s curio collection could have been borrowed in toto from André Breton’s apartment—and its most overt manifestation, the underwater photography inspired by Vigo’s experience on Taris (1931, in which the French swimming champion of the title looks like the subject of a painting by Valentine Hugo, floating among the stars), is a beautifully realized conceit, at once mystically dreamlike and fabulously glamorous. But Vigo isn’t Man Ray—he pulls away from the lip of Hollywood to throw you back into the real world of weather and labor and money worries. Throughout, the interplay between the characters is evenhanded; nothing is ever dramatized for the sake of drama. The realistic tone of the squabbling seems almost Russian, too, reminiscent of Soviet character pictures like Abram Room’s Bed and Sofa (1927).
Because of censorship, marketing and distribution problems, Vigo’s early death, and other factors, his movies did not get the recognition they deserved until they were rereleased after the war, which was also when they were widely shown abroad. Their reputation was made in France by the young film fanatics of the ciné-clubs, a disproportionate number of whom would go on to become important critics and, eventually, filmmakers—virtually all of the New Wave directors traveled this route, and many of them paid tributes direct and metaphorical to Vigo in their pictures (most obviously, Truffaut in The 400 Blows). Another major heir of L’Atalante is the photography of Robert Doisneau, especially his first book, La banlieue de Paris (1949, with text by Blaise Cendrars). Part of the reason Doisneau’s pictures can feel as though they were taken just outside the frame of this movie is simply geographical. His territory included the location where much of L’Atalante was shot, Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a country village in the 1930s but after the war absorbed into the suburban fringe of Paris, then half-built and raw. The wedding procession at the start of the film winds through a tile-roofed village that—it or its siblings—remains at the center of Doisneau’s world. But then you see in his pictures that the mix of oneiric and workaday that rules the movie was not simply an artist’s whim. Doisneau’s own young marrieds, living it up at the shooting gallery in their wedding finery or having their first drink at the local alongside grime-encrusted laborers, aren’t making a point—they are simply living their lives, snatching pleasure and fully inhabiting it within the lath-and-stucco frame of the daily. Along with the protagonists of L’Atalante, they are part of the last generation in the West to experience life directly and not as consumers.
L’Atalante does contain the world—all of life in miniature: work and love and play, dream and lust and adventure, rapture and heartbreak and reconciliation, and birth and death by implication. You could think of it as made by a filmmaker who knew he was about to die and intended it as a last will and testament, stuffed to the corners with his love for the world. Then again, he left no fewer than twenty-six uncompleted film projects, seven of them his own scripts (as well as unproduced screenplays by Cendrars, Jules Supervielle, Jean Painlevé, and Henri-Pierre Roché, among others), as if he were intending to live to be ninety. Either way, L’Atalante combines the headiness of an ascent with the accrued wisdom of a terminal statement, a conjunction seldom found in movies, or anywhere.
The idea for L'Atalante came about in the early 1930s, when films and music about barge dwellers were popular in France. Vigo liked the scenario and began work on the script with Nounez agreeing to produce the film making a deal with the Gaumont Film Company to provide studio sets and distribute the film. Vigo hired his frequent collaborators cinematographer Boris Kaufman and composer Maurice Jaubert, as well as Art director Francis Jourdain, who was an old friend of his father. Boris Kaufman, the brother of Soviet film maker Dziga Vertov, described his years working with Vigo as "cinematic paradise."
Vigo also worked with established movie stars for the first time with L'Atalante. Michel Simon had been a leading actor since appearing in the title role of Jean Renoir's social comedy Boudu Saved from Drowning playing the hilarious tramp and Dita Parlo was a major star who would also be more famous a few years later in Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion playing the farmer woman who took in runaway convicts. Jean Dasté had only appeared in Zero for Conduct and Boudu Saved from Drowning before his leading role, but went on to have a long career in France.
L'Atalante took four months to shoot, partially in a replica of the interior of the barge in a Gaumont studio, and partially on location. On location, shooting conditions were often cold and wet, causing Vigo to become ill in which he developed a fever. Vigo was already suffering from tuberculosis and was bedridden for portions of the filming. He worked on the film until it was almost complete and a rough cut had been made, while he rested and took a vacation in warmer climates in order to recover. However his health did not improve and he was confined to bed for the remainder of his life. Dasté later claimed saying, "Vigo made jokes all the time. Spending a day with him was wonderful and grueling, even a few weeks before his death. he was such a vivacious person."
The film's final cut was made by editor Louis Chavance and previewed to French film distributors in April 1934. The screening was disastrous and Gaumont took control of the film. Jean Pascal called the original cut "a confused, incoherent, willfully absurd, long, dull, commercially worthless film." However Élie Faure said that he was reminded of the painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and praised "these landscapes of water, trees, little houses on peaceful banks and boats slowly threading their way ahead of a silver wake: the same impeccable composition, the same power invisibly present because so much a master of itself, the same balance of all the elements of a visual drama in the tender embrace of complete acceptance, the same pearly, golden veil translucently masking the sharpness of composition and the firmness of line."
Eventually Gaumont cut the film's running time to 65 minutes in an attempt to make it more popular and changed the title to Le chaland qui passe (The Passing Barge), the name of a popular song from the time by Lys Gauty, which was also inserted into the film replacing parts of Jaubert's score. Vigo was too weak to defend the film as his condition grew worse. When L'Atalante was released in September 1934 it was a commercial failure and received poor reviews from critics, who called it "amateurish, self-indulgent and morbid." In October 1934, shortly after the film had finished its initial run at French movie theaters, Vigo died at the age of 29 in the arms of his wife Lydou. Allegedly, he died just as a street performer began playing Le chaland qui passe below his window.
L'Atalante and all of Vigo's work was mostly forgotten by the late 1930s, despite L'Atalante being partially restored in 1940. Vigo's work began to be rediscovered after World War II. 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." In the UK, Roger Manvell called Vigo "perhaps the most original and promising of the great French directors." In Italy Luigi Comencini obtained a personal copy of L'Atalante and would screen it for his friends, calling it "a masterpiece capable of shaking up any notion about cinema the average spectator might have."
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." Yugoslavian film director Emir Kusturica has said he is a big admirer of Vigo's work and describes Vigo as a poet. Many of his films pay tribute to L'Atalante including other directors like Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris, Leos Carax's Les Amants du Pont-Neuf and Jean-Luc Godard's In Praise of Love.
The film was restored to 89 minutes in 1990 thanks to the fortunate retrieval of a copy featuring the whole footage in the archives of the RAI, the Italian State broadcasting company, where it had been languishing for decades. The other three films Vigo made were mostly shorts which include, A Propos De Nice, Taris and most famously Zero De Conduite.
Zero De Conduite is now considered a classic as well in which it tells the 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. Like L'Atalante, the film was not immediately popular, but has proven to be enduringly influential. François Truffaut paid homage to Zero for Conduct in his 1959 debut The 400 Blows. The anarchic classroom and recess scenes in Truffaut's film borrow much from Vigo's film, as does a classic scene in which a mischievous group of schoolboys are led through the streets by one of their schoolmasters. Director Lindsay Anderson has acknowledged that his own film if.... was inspired by Zero for Conduct as well.
Film critic Roger Ebert added L'Atalante film to his 'Great Movies' and stated, "The film is shot in a poetic way that sees them as the figures in a myth; L'Atalante is not only the barge name but the name of a Greek goddess who, says Brewer's Dictionary, 'being very swift of foot, refused to marry unless the suitor should first defeat her in a race. Can it be that Jean and Juliette were racing away from one another, and he did a better job of it?"
L'Atalante is a film that shows that there is no such thing as a fairy tale wedding. To live happily ever after with someone can be true in several ways but you first have to learn to live with them. Love and marriage is never that simple and as fairytale like as the wedding seems to be in the beginning of the film, problems already start to emerge between the two lovers when sailing off on the barge. First off, Jean's wife does not like Jim's first mate Jules' cats and finds it irritating to live with them. Jules has about 5 or 6 of them and they greatly annoy her. Second is how the men do their dirty laundry and take care of themselves and she feels the need to change things in order for her to be content; as much as the other men persist. She seems to love her new husband and yet it doesn't seem like they really got to know each other for too long before they married. The people in her village are overheard saying she the type of woman who always wanted to be different and when leaving her village, I doubt she expected to be living inside a barge throughout her marriage. She is a young beautiful women who wants to experience new and wonderful things and also see the world. When hearing about Paris on the radio, Juliette is absolutely excited because obviously it's a place she has never seen before. Juliette wants to have fun and her husband wants to work; and it's these simple character touches that make L'Atalante such a beautiful and magical film. This film unravels not necessarily through plot but more through the character's and how they feel. L'Atalante is about two young lovers who will always be searching for something greater and yet at the end will find each other wanting one another once again. When Jean finally decides to take Juliette out on the town she is immediately blown away by the sites of the city. It's not surprising because of how attractive Juliette is that she draws much attention by other men; most specifically a street peddler who is funny, spontaneous and charming. This of course enrages her husband and he takes her back to the barge and orders her to stay there. She of course decides to sneak out, not exactly to be disloyal to her husband, but because the mysteries of the world can't stop her from leaving. I never could understand why many young people rush into marriage and settle down because we as young sexual curious human beings should be first allowed to spread our wings and experience the world before tying ourselves down to just one individual. I have seen so many people my age unhappy and unsatisfied because they had gotten married right out of high-school and our now tied down to a husband or wife and several children, without ever really experiencing life and seeing different parts of the world. That could be somewhat the reason for the high divorce rates and affairs between young married couples because they realize that their life still feels empty and unfulfilled even after thinking a lover would be the answer for it all. L'Atalante was chosen as the 10th-greatest film of all time in the British journal Sight & Sound's 1962 poll, and as the 6th-best in its 1992 poll. In the 2002 poll, it ranked 17th, with 15 critics and directors (including Jim Jarmusch) naming it as one of their ten favorite films. What makes L'Atalante even greater is the special performance by Michel Simon as the mysterious and hilarious Jules. He steals every scene he is in whether it's him going on about his incredible adventures and travels, showing off his numerous tattoos or artifacts or the funny antics and jokes that he pulls. And as lovable and funny as he is he also seems to might have a sudden violent temper which is never specifically shown throughout the film. L'Atalante is a masterpiece and one of the most loved romances in the world. And yet, I see it as a sort of cautionary tale on marriage and young love. How can anyone at such a young age really be sure on what they truly want? Even though the film ends with everyone joyously back onboard, I doubt that this will be the last fight between Jean and Juliette. If he keeps her from wanting to do what she wants to do and continues to try to control her with his jealousy and violence; it will only be some time until she leaves him again; except this time for good. I do believe in love but it is are flaws as human beings that rarely make love last a lifetime.