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...that in Jean Vigo's all-too short-lived career as a filmmaker he
didn't make one unsuccessful movie, despite his difficulties. But
seeing Zero For Conduct, which was no doubt a big influence (if only in
the details of some scenes) for Truffaut's 400 Blows, I do feel a
little sorry for it in a way. Watching it, I kept thinking 'is this
Vigo's director's cut, or did they make him cut stuff out'? Because
within the 41 minute time frame- which comes in over one minute of
being a short film- things happen, but they almost happen too fast.
Holes are sort of left in the plot, and only occasionally do they
becomes a little bothersome (I wanted to see what happened, for
example, when the kid told the short principal "go to hell" as it cuts
right from that to the kids gearing up for their uprising for the next
day). If this were the length of L'Atalante, it might even be just as
great as that. It's flaws, if any, are probably also due to budget. It
also doesn't help that the print was so scratched, and the subtitles so
spotty, that some of the time I wasn't sure what's going on or if a
cutaway was right.
This all aside, however, Zero For Conduct is a wonderful little song to the spirit of youth, and what it is to be at that age and see authority, practically any authority, as a form of fascism. In fact Vigo makes a point of making the title, Zero For Conduct, part of the repetitive punishment for the students that disobey just in the slightest. It a given until after a while it loses its meaning. We're given a small band of joyful miscreants, Caussat, Colin, Bruel, Tabbard, as they plot to stage a rebellion on the day of the alumni event at the private boys school they attend. Even though one of the professors is actually on the same level of rebellious spirit as them- and at one point does a handstand like one of the other kids and draws a cartoon to prove it- most of the teachers, and the principal with the Napoleon-complex played by the funny Delphin, kill their spirits completely. Vigo's world is almost too much fun though for their rebellion to be too violent or with too many tragedies and so forth, and the anarchy is that kind of childish chaos where it almost comes close to a pillow fight (in maybe my favorite sequence of the film, where the boys do a sort of test-run for their rebellion, laying to waste their sleeping quarters, caught in delirious, masterful slow-motion and sweet music by Maurice Jaubert).
If you can find it, and you're already a fan of L'Atalante, you should be in for a very pleasant, early-sound era surprise from Vigo and his great DP Boris Kaufman, with much of it featuring the perfectly goofy experiments with the form that were done in A Propos De Nice, but here with something more of a story. With the quality spotty and all- one of the films most in need of a restoration in fact- Vigo's style never seems too compromised at least, and the sense of pure, cinematic exuberance with what makes life grand and not so grand is up for grabs in a real short shot. We get the little notes of humor, however slight (like the boy doing a little trick with his fingers on the train), and the moments of the dark side (a moment when the principal, with a student at his desk, does some kind of creepy demon pose), and it ends with a cool French school song too. Like Bunuel's Simon of the Desert, I'm not sure if Vigo's film got a bum rap or if he had planned to make it even bigger and with more depth into who these kids are and what the school is like. But like that film as well, what remains contains splendors that can only come from unique minds in film-making. A-
Vigo's first fiction film is one of my favorites classics of all. From the presentation of the characters you can realize that the movie is something special; the kids are just great: they are intelligent, funny and over all, rebel , but with no loss of their candid side. The adults receive a grotesque layer of paint to put the olive to the acid-social humor cocktail. The technical department may be a little under the possibilities of its time, but still Vigo's crew make it by the smart use of simple resources like the dramatical application of animated items or simple edition tricks. The rest must be seen, not told so get the DVD, forget those fancy details like surround sound (or clear sound) colors or complicated effects and relax for 45 minutes of a simple but rich classic.
known as a major inspiration for François Truffaut, Jean Vigo's "Zero de conduite" is a little cinema jewel about children. I'm not sure to be able to describe it much better than telling it is a child and messy view (recalls ?) on childhood. Some scenes are unforgettable. Jean Vigo's cinema suffered a lot : "l'atalante", one of the most "natural" movies ever, was re-mounted by the studio Gaumont into a not very interesting love story (now the movie is in public domain, Gaumont remounted it close to the "director's cut"). "Zéro de conduite" was banned by the censors... And the author died very young, so we don't have much of his genius to watch, everything from him is worth seeing.
I saw this film on a double bill tonight with Jean Vigo's L'Atalante. I
French movies but until now I had seen nothing from this long ago.
It seems to be one hilarious set piece after another, I say hilarious and I really mean that. The children are wonderful but the teachers are all there to be made fun of in any manner of ways. I must say the Head master is brilliant.
Whilst this is only about 40 minutes or so long, it is a fine introduction to the Jean Vigo's full length feature film, L'Atalante.
If you love cinema, you will love Zero for Conduct.
In a repressive boarding school with rigid rules of behavior, four boys
decide to rebel against the direction on a celebration day.
"Zéro de Conduite: Jeunes Diables au College" is based on the real life experience of Jean Vigo, who was the son of an anarchist militant that died in jail and was abandoned by his mother at the age of twelve, passing from boarding school to boarding school along his childhood. He died with only twenty-nine years old one year after the release of this film in France on 07 April 1933, but it has been censored by the French authorities until 15 February 1946.
Every decade, the cinema industry releases at least one movie about the relationship between students and teachers that reflects the behavior of the society. The surrealistic and anarchist satire "Zéro de Conduite: Jeunes Diables au College" shows a repressive school and is probably the predecessor to explore this theme in 1933. Therefore it is influential and important to see it at least once. François Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" (1959); James Clavell's "To Sir with Love" (1967); John N. Smith's Dangerous Minds (1995); Laurent Cantet's "Entre les Murs" (2008) among others, are more recent movies that discloses the increasing violence and lack of respect for the authorities in school and consequently in the society itself. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Zero de Conduite"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jean Vigo led a famously short life, he lived only until his thirties, and made four films, each of which were great, two of which were perfect. The first was l'Atalante, the second was 'Zero for Conduct', which was based on his experiences growing up an orphan living in several boarding schools, constantly battling lifelong ailments which would eventually go on to kill him. The poignancy of a life like his comes from the fact that some people spend their whole careers trying to make just one film that comes close to what he did effortlessly in his twenties, and no doubt had he lived longer he would have gained the recognition and popularity awarded to filmmakers like Truffaut and Godard, two directors who perhaps owe their careers to Vigo, particularly Truffaut, who's 400 Blows took much inspiration and material from this film. It is clear the artistic impact Vigo had, he was a master who experimented with sound and music loops well before it became fashion to do so, as well as camera speeds such as during the wonderful pillow fight sequence which is slowed down so we can see a hurricane of feathers gently floating around the frame. I will never forget this image. Zero for Conduct was particularly short, not long enough to be considered a feature, but not short enough to be considered a short film, but in my opinion too short. I would have gladly watched another hour of this beautiful and strange film...
This is an odd film, one that will certainly test the patience of many
potential viewers given the sad fact that it is technically an
unfinished work; standing at only 41 minutes in length and abruptly
ending at the point when it was becoming most interesting. However,
even in this currently truncated form there is no denying that director
Jean Vigo was an incredibly talented young man; as this short sketch of
a film and his lone masterpiece L'Atalante (1934) will attest. What
impresses most about Zéro de conduit (1933) - which shouldn't work, but
somehow does - is the juxtaposition and appropriation of a number of
textural and thematic reference points that move from elements of bold
farce and satirical comment, to the further elements of silent humour,
surrealist symbolism and neo-realist observation. It's all tied
together by the strong use of characterisation, the likable
performances from these young and natural actors and the still somewhat
exciting way in which the various references have all been woven
Really though, it's simply a great little romp; with the free-spirited kids sowing the seeds of rebellion against the strict regime of tradition and conformity forced upon them by the teachers of a long-established French boarding school in such a way as to make for great satirical farce. In this respect, you can see it as an obvious influence on Lindsay Anderson's subversive masterpiece If... (1968) and indeed, certain elements of François Truffaut's classic, The 400 Blows (1959), with the school-based setting and the ideas of youthful rebellion being fairly iconic in the post 60's sense, and no doubt standing as fairly radical issues to be dramatised in the year 1934 (no wonder the film was banned by the censors until after the close of World War II). Regardless, the film is charming in a way that many films of this period often are, with the smart-alecky kids running rings around the stuffy lecturers in a no doubt fairly pointed metaphor for French cinema of this particular era (and of Vigo's potential to be something of a precursor to Jean-Luc Godard in terms of shaking up the establishment) before a last minute U-turn into more abstract territory with that iconic pillow-fight - and its dreamlike use of slow motion and accidental nudity - turns the whole thing on its head.
It's a real shame that the film isn't longer; giving us more room to get to know the characters and allowing the switch in tone to propel the drama into a more satisfying climax. As it stands, it is still a great piece of film-making, though one that will obviously be a somewhat infuriating experience for some. The experiments hinted at in the pillow fight sequences would seem to take a direct influence from Vigo's documentary film Taris, roi de l'eau (1931), while the more social-realist moments draw on his short-form travelogue À propos de Nice (1930), with all of these particular techniques and the influence found in Zéro de conduit itself later being blended into the brilliant L'Atalante. Unfortunately Vigo would subsequently die at the age of 29, denying the world of further films that may have contextualised Zéro de conduit beyond that of a short-form sketch. Still, as it stands today, over 70 years on, Vigo's film has lost none of its ability to charm, delight and confound the expectations of viewers; showing the hints of what a true talent he was and could have been, as well as offering a fairly worthy experience in its own right.
Yes, this movie is surrealistic alright. Perhaps not as much as for
instance a Luis Buñuel movie but it features lots of symbolism and
metaphors. You have to like these sort of movies obviously to fully
appreciate and enjoy it.
It's of course also a protest to the very strong regime on boarding schools, which makes this movie a social commentary, like often surrealistic-like movies are. It caused Jean Vigo's movies not to be appreciated until after WW II, since prior to that his movies mostly got banned everywhere.
French always had a thing with revolutions, which also plays a central theme within this movie. The movie might feel and look a bit disjointed at times but its always connected through its central themes.
As odd as this movie might seem like at times, it always knows to remain an enjoyable one, with also some good comedy in it at times, as well as some great looking and directed sequences.
An enjoyable little short surrealistic picture from Jean Vigo.
"Zero For Conduct" is one of the great Jean Vigo's few films. After
this and the masterpiece "L'Atalante", he died of tuberculosis at age
twenty-nine. This is a shame, because had he lived, he surely would be
as highly regarded as either Fellini or Bunuel. "Zero For Conduct" in
particular is a magical film. It manages to tell an engaging storyline
with many nice moments of dreamlike surrealism in a manner that brings
to mind Jean Cocteau. It was also very ahead of its time. The
naturalistic camera-work, settings, and performers bring to mind the
French New Wave and the films of Truffant, and the story is very
similar to "If...". Despite being only forty minutes, its a captivating
and unique film the whole way through.
The movie unfortunately falls slightly short of masterpiece status for reasons that were probably out of Vigo's control. He was working under a very tight shooting schedule, and the rushed nature shows in the final product. The resolution in particular is rather unsatisfying and very abrupt. Still, there's so much visual beauty on display here that those minor defects become largely irrelevant. This is one of those films which the negative aspects are quickly forgotten and the qualities are what resonate. Add to that a perfect cast (its rare when the kids in a movie seem the right age for their characters), and you have a marvelous little film. (9/10)
Vigo's first (and penultimate) fiction feature is a precocious but messy work that serves notice of the huge talent he possesses while clearly showing that he is still a man learning his trade. The story as such tells of a revolt by schoolboys against their strict masters, but it wanders all over the place and appears either to have suffered at the hands of some inept editor's scissors, or to contain an abundance of nascent ideas that Vigo has chosen or been forced to put to screen before they were fully formed. It all makes for a fragmented and episodic structure that nevertheless somehow seems to add to the charm of the piece. Interspersed between these disjointed plot developments are some eerily surreal moments, such as when the midget headmaster straightens his tie in the mirror and his reflection moves away a second or two after him, which ensure that this film, while not the finished article, is never less than fascinating.
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