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France 1934
Directed by
Jean Vigo
89 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Atalante, L'

With excellent performances by the lead actors, Jean Dasté and Dita Parlo, this quintessentially French romance and Vigo's only full-length feature, L’Atalante may not be quite the masterpiece everyone claims it to be but it is nevertheless a remarkable film for its (or any) time, visually lyricism. Its achievement is made even more remarkable because it was made under trying conditions by many of the team who had worked on his previous film, Zéro De Conduite, including cinematographer Boris Kaufman who would eventually win an Oscar for his work on On The Waterfront (1954). 

A simply-told love story of a bargee and his new bride it is beautifully photographed and was shot on location on the canals of Paris under severe weather conditions (which contributed to Vigo's death from tuberculosis at the age of 29, just before its release). It was poorly received on first release and Gaumont recut it drastically and retitled it Le Chaland Qui Passe (The Passing Barge), inserting a popular song of that name into the sound-track. It was advertised as "a film inspired by the celebrated sung so admirably song by Lys Gauty". Attempts were made to restore the film during the 40s but it was only in 1989 that Gaumont released a version that was substantially close to Vigo's original.

DVD Extras: Madman has made L’Atalante part of a two-disc release of Vigo’s entire catalogue of 4 films, including Zéro De Conduite (1933), a silent documentary, A Propos de Nice (1930) and a 10m instructional film about a champion swimmer, Taris, Roi de L’eau. (1931). L’Atalante itself comes with an audio commentary by Dr. Wendy Haslem of the University of Melbourne; a documentary, Sound Regained, on the audio restoration of Vigo’s films; and an interview with film-maker Ota Iosseliani on the influence of Vigo on his work.

Available from: Madman




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