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L'Atalante (1934)

 -  Drama | Romance  -  21 June 1947 (USA)
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 8,551 users  
Reviews: 65 user | 67 critic

When Juliette marries Jean, she comes to live with him as he captains a river barge. Besides the two of them, are a cabin boy and the strange old second mate Pere Jules. Soon bored by life ... See full summary »

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Title: L'Atalante (1934)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Dita Parlo ...
Juliette
Jean Dasté ...
Jean
Gilles Margaritis ...
Le camelot
Louis Lefebvre ...
Le gosse
Maurice Gilles ...
Le chef de bureau
Raphaël Diligent ...
Raspoutine, le batelier (as Rafa Diligent)
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Storyline

When Juliette marries Jean, she comes to live with him as he captains a river barge. Besides the two of them, are a cabin boy and the strange old second mate Pere Jules. Soon bored by life on the river, she slips off to see the nightlife when they come to Paris. Angered by this, Jean sets off, leaving Juliette behind. Overcome by grief and longing for his wife, Jean falls into a depression and Pere Jules goes and tries to find Juliette. Written by dlevy1201

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

21 June 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

L'Atalante  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Some shots are included in the main title of Italian TV show Fuori orario. Cose (mai) viste (1988). See more »

Connections

Referenced in Grand Illusion (1985) See more »

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User Reviews

 
the most sublime triumph of French cinema I've seen yet (pre New-Wave)
29 January 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Not to discount the many great French filmmakers that were already around and thriving long before Cashiers du Cinema took over and turned movie-making on its head, but even with the great works of Renoir, Melville or Cocteau, Jean Vigo's only theatrical film L'Atalante struck me immensely for being such a luminous, constantly humorous, everlasting tale of finding the right kind of connection. There's all those details that end up building up in much of the early part of the picture, and it's all practically all predicated on behavior, and how the warm company of others can sometimes also have the flip-side of the cold shoulder. But is it really a sudden turn of distaste for someone, or just insecurity at not being good enough? The relationship between Juliette and Jean is one of the most moving of all screen romances because it keeps everything on a level anyone can cling to, or recognize at the least. Vigo understands not just what beauty can come out of seeing two people who suddenly really find themselves, what they mean for each other against the most minute moments that add up, but how there's so much life, and passion for life around them, it's hard to resist the basic impulses. It's a very mature film about the childish impulses in men and women.

Yet seeing the genre classified as drama/romance is not really correct (it's not one of those easy films to classify anyway). For a film that is touted as a masterpiece of a simple romantic entanglement, on first glance it could seem to be more serious than it really is. If anything, Vigo achieves a sublime level of comedy here, and true 'human' comedy and touches of the absurd in hopelessness, balancing the dramatic parts. Take when Jean, in the midst of his 'what have I done' frame of mind after he abandons Juliette in Paris- when she decides to go off on her own for a night of fun when Jean refuses (tempted by a clownish peddler)- takes a leap into the river and swims around, himself submerged as thoughts fly by with Juliette at one point superimposed to his left. Part of this, of course, is perfectly poetic, illustrating without words (and not needing to) what a mistake can do to a man's psyche not ready to take things on properly. But it's also sort of funny seeing him swimming down there, not feeling a need to come up, even if it's questionable whether he'd really kill himself. It's one of the great love-sick scenes ever.

But by then L'Atalante has kicked into something exactly 'happening', and there's no need for suspense because we'll know what will happen at the end. That's not important part, anyway; here it's to see how how one scene will go into another, or how one shot will suddenly transition into something else- character. In fact, for the first part of the picture we're given just the simplicity life on the L'Atalante ship, where we start to see the tension between husband and wife due partly to Jules- a scraggly old man who is sloppy and a little degenerate, but also loves his many, many cats and cute kittens and just wants some good music to listen to- and how she sort of wastes her time there from time to time. There's a great feeling that comes out too in seeing how both old man and young wife are sort of similar in their moments of escapism, except that Jules has more of a long-lived and much traveled spirit too, while Juliette is like a wide-eyed kid in a candy-store, who can't do too much on such a small ship, and certainly not with the not un-emotional but somewhat estranged husband Jean. I loved the bits between the two of them as well, where there's a moment of peace and happiness- like when Jean finally takes Juliette out to see a song & dance number at the hall- but also the contrasted tension. And when the peddler/singer does tempt Juliette with the ideas of Paris and dances with her, just the look on Jean's face is priceless.

So in the meantime that Vigo gets such rich, daringly but incredibly captivating moments of the light and mundane on the ship (radio channel change, fun on top deck, the accordion to the record not playing, the drunk Jules, the flowers meant for the newlyweds that go overboard), he matches up this to his cast with his style. Michel Simon, already exceptional in Boudu Saves From Drowning, is just a pure delight as Jules, a fool's fool but not an idiot by any means, a performance that is layered even in the broadest strokes. The couple played by Daste and Parlo are also really well cast, as Daste is believable as the professional skipper, but even more so at being completely frustrated- then dazed as hell- at his lack of attention to his wife; Parlo is understandably the honey of (seemingly) every man's eye in Paris, and she too walks a fine line of believable malcontent and happiness. And meanwhile with this, Vigo and Boris Kaufman create indelible cinematic images, like the guy wrestling with himself on the boat where his movements sort of go in a haze like flipping through pages, or the aforementioned superimposition. Or just the total control over the space and angles of scenes (overhead in Jules's apartment, a low-angle when husband & wife exit the dance hall in a huff, the shots of Jean at the bottom of frame isolated, kitten on Simon's shoulder).

In short, not only does it make very clear, in wonderful poetic terms, the power of love, without a convention or typical moment becoming the slightest irksome, as something to be re-evaluated, but that being around people can be the most enjoyable thing in the world, even if it's on a small little steamboat. A++


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