Saturday, August 9, 2008


L'Atalante; Drama, France, 1934; D: Jean Vigo, S: Dita Parlo, Michel Simon, Jean Dasté, Gilles Margaritis, Louis Lefebvre

Juliette marries Jean, captain of river boat L'Atalante, in order to escape from her boring village. Boarding the boat, she meets Jean's workers, the old sailor Jules and a young boy. The life on the boat becomes quickly boring to her, though, and not even Jules' jokes can change that. Upon arriving at a dock in Paris, Jean and Juliette go out to dance, but a salesman tells her to go visit the city. One night, she leaves the boat to explore Paris and the angry Jean feels betrayed. After a few weeks of miserable state of loneliness, Jules finds Juliette and brings her back. The couple embraces each other.

The final film of director Jean Vigo, which he shot in his final days before his too early death caused by a long struggle with tuberculosis, "L'Atalante" is a flawed classic, an unusual film that follows it's own style and says a few big unobtrusive messages about life. Because of Vigo's death, it wasn't hard to predict it would become one of the most legendary films of it's time, with most critics praising it's raw poetry and beauty in the ugly world, yet for an 86 minute film it feels somehow too overstretched and filled with empty walks. The love story between the young couple is beautiful, and thus it's a pity Vigo wastes so little time on them and so much time on the heavily annoying supporting character of the old sailor Jules, played by Michel Simon, one of the biggest slobs ever to decide to become an actor, who can get on the viewer's nerves by constantly saying: "Ha?", acting like a primitive swine and shooting with silly jokes all around him, like when Jean spots a photo of a naked woman and asks him about it, and he tells him it's a photo of him as a "little kid". Also, the moment where the couple separates ignites sparks and suspense, yet it happens just about 30 minutes before the end, and the whole part before that is rather vague. Sadly, the film isn't as great as many say it is, but if it has one absolutely magical moment, then it's the sequence where Jean and Juliette are separated by miles, but both lie in bed and touch their body the exact same way, to symbolize how they yearn for each other in the separation.


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