As was the fashion among many directors of the epoch, Jean Vigo's first "point-of-view" documentary aimed at capturing the life and the very essence of a city; here, the beautiful seaside resort of early-1930s Nice. However, with the aid of Dziga Vertov's brother, Boris Kaufman, this avant-garde short film evolved from an ordinary depiction of a coastal town into a caustic and sarcastic report of the "real" Nice, portraying the contrasting lifestyles of its inhabitants. Starting with a series of captivating aerial takes, Vigo's film continues with scenes that pivot around the sun-kissed Promenade des Anglais, and unexpected juxtapositions of poverty and wealth; modern architecture and garbage; the working poor and the idle rich. In the cosmopolitan city of Nice on the French Côte d'Azur, eye-catching tableaux of sharp and eternal antitheses invite us to take a look at the anatomy of a small world. Does beauty transcend the boundaries of money, language, and social classes?Written by
Disguised as a travelogue of Nice (in only images, without a single narration or title card), Vigo presents us with some of the most extraordinairy images you'll ever see.
On top of what was inspired observation (just pointing his camera at everyday things and making them look new, as if we've never seen them fore, Vigo was boundlessly inventive. Through simple slow motion, or fast motion, certain sequences are made magical (a procession, a bunch of girls dancing), through editing Vigo makes things disappear and appear, and change shape and appearance. His real magic, though, was in camera angles.
Apropos de Nice is one of the most exciting things i've ever seen. If you've seen Zero de Conduite and L'Atalante, the only two features Vigo completed before his premature death at 29, like me, you won't be able to help yourself from seeking out this little treasure, sadly only 25 mins long.
What was such a joy about Vigo was his wide-eyed wonder at the medium. Like Truffaut, Vigo had a boundless passion for movies as a boy, and at one point he saved up enough money to buy a camera, and he went out on the town in Nice and what we see in this movie is the result. Just Vigo standing there with a camera filming things, and the results are breathtaking. Just the look of things... the shapes of things, becomes illuminated by Vigo's curious camera. Vigo goes dancing on a crowded ballroom with his camera, watches sunbathers with it, watches passersby on the beachside, and watches a man reading a private letter over his shoulder, watches trees blowing in the wind, different men laughing, and much more i'll leave for you to discover. But its not the things themselves, its the way they are looked at - the camera angles, the way the camera moves around them. Vigo's lesson is that words are impotent, but images are magic.
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