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L'Atalante

Vigo's only full-length feature film, made when he was 29, suffered some alterations at the hands of the distributors, but it did not change his radically original writing. Here realism is united with surrealistic poetry, leading to a powerful lyricism. The plot might lack cohesion, but the force of this movie lies in the presentation of characters and in the atmosphere of a rarely seen populist Paris. “We were intoxicated by the admirable landscape of the Parisian canals and developed the action against a backdrop of locks, steeps, banks, guinguettes, and waste ground,” he wrote. And Boris Kaufman, his famous cameraman, brother of Vertov, could complete it: “He used everything around him: the sun, the moon, snow, night. Instead of fighting unfavorable conditions, he made them play a part.” Vigo anticipated the methods of Italian neorealism by almost fifteen years. His use of actors - non-professionals or even the way he handled professionals - was unique for this time. He wanted to “reveal the hidden reason from a gesture, to extract from an ordinary person his interior beauty - or a caricature of him - quite by chance... reveal his complete inner spirit through his purely external manifestations.” Elie Faure, the art historian, a friend of Vigo's father, the anarchist Almereyda, has written, “The spirit of Jean Vigo's work is classical, almost violent and always tormented, a virulent and even demoniacal romanticism that still remains humanistic.”

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