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 but fortunately L'Atalante was partially restored in 1940. 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.
À propos de Nice, 1930, 23 min, B&W, Silent, 1.33:1
Taris, 1931, 9 min, B&W, Mono, In French with English subtitles, 1.19:1
Zéro de conduite, 1933, 44 min, B&W, Mono, In French with English subtitles
L’Atalante, 1934, 85 min, B&W, Mono, In French with English subtitles, 1.33:1
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. The version of the film presented on the new Criterion DVD and blu ray aims to be as true as possible to Jean Vigo's original version and is truly a sight to behold. 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."