The Complete Jean Vigo [Criterion Collection] [2 Discs] [DVD]

Director Jean Vigo (1905-34) stands high on the lists of cinema's most formidable artists and its most unspeakably tragic figures. Formidable in the sense that Vigo, in a mere 29 years, turned out a handful of some of the most beautiful films the world has ever seen, with a wholly distinct and refreshing voice - titles such as Taris, L'Atalante, Zéro de Conduite and À Propos de Nice. Tragic in the sense that this brilliant artist died at the age of 29, not from a vice of any kind but from a bout of tuberculosis that silenced his voice forever. The venerable Criterion Collection issued this comprehensive box set of all four of the said titles by Vigo - fully restored with numerous supplements.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Disc One
  • Audio Commentaries featuring Michael Temple, author of Jean Vigo
  • Score for À propos de Nice by Marc Perrone, from 2001
  • Alternate Edits from À propos de Nice, featuring footage cut by Vigo
  • Disc 2
  • Episode of the French Television Series Cinéastes de notre temps about Vigo, from 1964
  • Conversation from 1968 between filmmakers François Truffaut and Eric Rohmer on L'Atalante
  • Animated tribute to Vigo by filmmaker Michel Gondry
  • Les voyages de "L'Atalante," film restorer and historian Bernard Eisenschitz's 2001 Documentary tracing the history of the film
  • Video Interview from 2001 with Director Otar Iosseliani on Vigo
  • Plus: A booklet featuring Essays by critics Michael Almereyda, Robert Polito, B. Kite, and Luc Sante

Synopsis

À Propos De Nice
A Propos de Nice was the first of pantheon French filmmaker Jean Vigo's four feature films. According to Vigo's legions of admirers, the film represents Life as the director truly perceived it: Not the steadily flowing river that many assume Life to be, but a dizzying succession of vaguely related, seconds-lasting vignettes. Essentially a satiric documentary of Nice, where the tubercular Vigo had been compelled to settle for his health, the film resembles the montage-like "visual symphonies" of Russian director Dziga Vertov. Indeed, Vertov's brother, Boris Kaufmann, served as cinematographer on this and two subsequent Vigo productions. The delicate blend between realism and surrealism in A Propos de Nice would later be melded with Vigo's sense of poetry in his future masterpieces Zero de conduite and L'Atalante. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

L'Atalante
The most acclaimed (and sentimental) film in Jean Vigo's short career. L'Atalante is the name of the barge owned by Jean (Jean Daste), who marries the lovely Juliette (Dita Parlo) at the film's beginning. Juliette comes to live aboard the barge, for Jean makes his living on the Seine. The arrival of a woman on board disrupts the small crew, but they do their best to make her welcome. The solitude and boredom soon take their toll on Juliette, so Jean brings her ashore for a night at a cafe in Paris. He becomes jealous of a flirtation between Juliette and a peddler, and when she leaves the ship again later, Jean casts off from the port. This dark love story is also peppered with hallucinations and unusual camerawork. A restored version was made available in 1990. ~ John Voorhees, Rovi

Taris
Zero for Conduct
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.... ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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