Herb Shellenberger

Jean Vigo's L'atalante (1934)
February 2, 2019
Lightbox Film Center
Philadelphia, PA, US

Part of Double Vision: Jean Vigo/Ron Rice

Jean Vigo’s final film was also his most ambitious, a project to which he devoted so much energy that he fell bedridden after shooting, dying a few months later. L’Atalante follows Jean and Juliette from their marriage in Juliette’s village to their life aboard the ship L’Atalante with its crew, Père Jules and a cabin boy. Recounting the simple story—abundant with flourishes of life, loss and love—doesn’t address the deep emotion and technical innovation which peak through the film’s every shot.

Mangled by producers upon the film’s initial release, Jean Vigo never got to see his vision of L’Atalante shown to audiences. But in later decades—through the championing of Henri Langlois and the filmmakers of the French New Wave—Vigo’s original intentions were restored to the film. In its full romance and wistfulness, with an uncompromised view of Vigo’s masterful command of both human and feline actors, the film has been regarded as one of cinema’s enduring classics.

L’Atalante, Jean Vigo, 1934, France, DCP, 89'