For the first time, the complete films from the 1930s, by the French director Jean Vigo, are available in a DVD set. The restless and adventurous young filmmaker was not always so celebrated, WNYC’s Sara Fishko tells us --in this quick look.
See the set: The Complete Jean Vigo from The Criterion Collection
From Francois Truffaut's The Films in My Life
“I had the huge pleasure of discovering Jean Vigo’s films in a single Saturday afternoon session in 1946, at the Sevres-Pathe, thanks to the Cine-Club “La Chambre Noire,” organized by Andre Bazin and other contributors to La Revue du Cinema. When I entered the theater, I didn’t even know who Jean Vigo was. I was immediately overwhelmed with wild enthusiasm for his work, which doesn’t take up two hundred minutes of projection time.
At first, I liked Zero de Conduite best, probably because I identified with Vigo’s collegians, as I was only three or four years older than they. Later, after I’d seen both films again and again, I definitely came to prefer L’Atalante, which I never leave out when I’m asked: ‘What, in your opinion, are the ten best films of all time?’”
Ludovic Cortade on Jean Vigo
Ludovic Cortade teaches French political history and cinema at NYU. We spoke to him about Jean Vigo, his films, and the importance of Vigo's work in the film landscape.
Photo courtesy of New York University.
On Vigo's films combining politics, social criticism and poetry
He brought together two very important aspects of filmmaking: politics, social criticism, and poetry. He wrote texts in which he said that a social documentary should open the eyes of the spectator. And what’s so interesting in Vigo’s films is that he definitely has a political approach to French society in the late 1920s, and the 1930s. And let’s keep in mind that France at that time was coping with the side-effects of the 1929 crisis. So it can be said that there is, without a doubt, a social agenda in his films, which, in my opinion, have such a powerful echo today. But that’s not all. At the same time, he defined a style and an aesthetic that is based on landscapes, dreams, poetry. And bringing together these two aspects is not that common in the history of filmmaking.
On Vigo's "documented point of view" documentaries
He’s certainly not making a case for a so-called objectivity of the film medium. It’s a false question. Many people ask the question of whether a documentary should be objective or not. He doesn’t care about this. And he makes it clear that documentary should be about what he calls a documented point of view. His films are documented point of views meaning that he uses documents or footage from real life and puts in evidence a certain perspective on society, a certain conception -- a critical conception of society. His intention is certainly not to hide that. It doesn’t shy away from his critical voice. And the fact that this critical voice is developed on a poetic note -- on the basis of a poetic note -- is something totally fascinating.
For more from the speaker in this week's Fishko Files...
Luc Sante is a critic and writer who writes about film and photography. You can take a look at some of his work here.
Sara Fishko has been thinking about film this week. Read her most recent blog post about the Museum of The Moving Image's new modern-day movie palace.
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