L’Atalante DVD

In Films, L by Jonathan McCalmont

As one of cinema’s greatest achievements

As one of cinema’s
greatest achievements, there is little that can be said to add to the lore of
Jean Vigo’s only feature length film.

When a newlywed couple embark on their honeymoon aboard a
barge ship their short-lived relationship soon hits rough waters. Though barge
captain Jean (Jean Dasté) and his
wife Juliette (Dita Parlo) are at
first deeply in love, the pressures of the journey, Juliette’s desire to see
the bright lights of Paris and Jean’s jealousy of the relationship between his
wife and the eccentric first mate Jules (Michel
), soon the two love birds find themselves separated and lost without
one another.

Amongst its many technical achievements is L’Atalante’s superbly nuanced and moody
cinematography. Set in and around the misty docks of France, cinematographer Boris Kaufman captures the dangers and
darkness of those environments and would later do the same on Elia Kazan’s similarly foreboding On The Waterfont. In that same respect,
L’Atalante’s legend has been enhanced over the years precisely because of the influence
it has had and continues to have on cinema.

Romantic, erotic, sensual, subversive and a knife-edge
drama, L’Atalante is a kaleidoscope of genres and emotions from the mind of a
rare talent.

Added extras include three of Vigo’s short films, A Propos de Nice, Taris, Zero de Conduite,
all of which are a precursor to the techniques that the master director would
use in L’Atalante. The highlight, however, is a fascinating documentary Filmmakers of Our Times: Jean Vigo
which highlights not only the extraordinarily progressive and visionary work of
Jean Vigo, but also the extreme physical barriers that he had to overcome.
Stricken by tuberculosis for a period of his life and practically on his deathbed
during the production of L’Atalante – Vigo sadly died at on 29 years of age –
it is truly astonishing how he produced a film at all, let alone one so

A filmmaker whose work often draw the ire of government
officials for his subversive style and humanist views, Vigo’s work has long
outlived the brutality of distributors and financiers who have meddled
continually with his films. Now all in their unabridged and intended forms, this
collection is essential for anyone who wants to indulge in some of the outstanding
cornerstones in the history of cinema.