French director Jean Vigo died at the age of 29, having made just four films (these two, A Propos de Nice and Taris). Undoubtedly Vigo’s untimely demise is a tragedy, but I disagree with the level of promise and potential he apparently showed, as these two films are dull, uninspiring and possessing of paper thin plots.
L’Atalante sees a young couple, Jean and Juliette, get married and set sail on a boat with their captain, Pere Jules, his cats and his cabin boy. After time, Juliette wants to settle down in the city and Jean wants to keep sailing, so he abandons her in port, leaving without her. There is little characterisation of any of the main players, so there is little to care about as to whether the couple resolve their differences or not, other than it will hopefully bring about the end of the film. Only the games of draughts between a desperately cheating Jules and a depressed Jean adding a dash of fun to the proceedings.
Zero de Conduite is even worse plot-wise, following a group of school children planning a rebellion during their school’s upcoming commemoration day. The film is interesting for showing an outdated education system – the house master sleeps in the same room as the students in his charge, making them stand at the foot of his bed for the night as punishment, but it’s hard to feel any sense of joy at the successful rebellion when the full extent of it is flying a Jolly Roger and instigating a pillow fight.
L’Atalante Choose life 3/10
Zero de Conduite Choose life 2/10