Zero for Conduct (Zéro de Conduite) plus A Propos de Nice and Taris
Jean Vigo was often called the cinema's Rimbaud, not only for his youth which enabled him to create a vivid, uncompromising and personal mode of expression, but also for his passionate sincerity, rich imagery, and directness of language. He became the great rediscovery of the French New Wave directors, so much so, that Truffaut's first feature included quotations as an homage to him. Zéro de Conduite is a short feature, based on very personal childhood experiences. Cruel, playful and exuberant, it is filled with enough unexpected ideas, gags and observations for a dozen films. The boarding school becomes a complete universe, carrying more general implications than the child-adult, or student-teacher relationships could cover. The loose but emotionally overcharged story creates a model of rebellion, portraying not only the petty, dictatorial regime of a school, but the dynamics, fervor and delirium of revolt as well. This profound revolutionary attitude by no means overshadows the poetic qualities so evident throughout Vigo's work. “Certainly I returned again,” Vigo said, “in the compartment in which the two boys on their return leave behind their holidays. Certainly my memories are reflected in those thirty identical beds, the dormitory of my boarding school years. I see also Huguet, whom we all loved, and his colleague Sourpuss and that silent supervisor with the crepe soles of a phantom. In the dimmed-down gaslight, will the little sleepwalker still haunt my dreams tonight?” Inspired by such deep memories, it is easy to understand how his film became a visual symphony, wild in hatred and tender in remembrance. “In this field of prospect, I affirm, the camera is the King - or at least President of the Republic” - a sentence which could be envied by all New Wave filmmakers.