Bruel, Caussat and Colin are three students at a boarding school. There is a continual battle between the school's authority figures and students. The teachers and monitors are always giving the three in particular "zero for conduct" and Sunday detention for their behavior. Conversely, most of the students believe the headmaster, teachers and monitors are a combination of authoritarian, inept, and/or corrupt. The one exception among the teachers is Huguet, newly arrived to the school, he who has a penchant for imitating Charles Chaplin as the Little Tramp, and to do handstands whenever the mood suits him, which includes in class. The boys are always doing whatever it takes to amuse themselves, which if it causes the teachers grief, so much the better. The three are the masterminds of a plot to overtake the school's Commemoration Day celebrations. The one student not involved is Tabard, who is seen as a sissy among the student body. Bruel believes Tabard should be involved. An act by ...Written by
The bouncing ball landing in his mother's pot of beans isn't thrown by Colin, but by a crew member whose hand appears in the left corner of the screen. See more »
War is declared! Down with monitors and punishment! Long live rebellion! Liberty or death! Hoist our flag on the school roof! Stand firm with us tomorrow! We'll bombard them with rotten old books, dirty tin cans, smelly boots and all the ammo piled up in the attic! We'll fight those old goats on commemoration day! Onward!
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Let's say what this doesn't have; riveting drama, well rounded characters, plush visuals, none of that is at stake here even as consideration. Which is for the better, if you're like me, and you want to see what life can be when freed from confines of story.
It's not even a film that directly fulfills me so much as how it paves a path for things to be done a certain way. See, many films from the era anticipate later movements, it was a fertile time. But none other so fully prophesies French New Wave in particular as this one here.
Look at the tropes and tell me.
The whole film is a series of improvised playing around against the rigid limits imposed by a story - given to us as kids fretting with the (storytelling) routine of a boarding school and its teachers. What little story there is, is for the kids to run around and play- act.
Teachers are shown as suitably buffoonish. The only one who is on their side, who shares in their playing, at one point does a Chaplin impersonation to amuse them. It's the same self-referential appraisal of movies as ideals that we find twenty years later in Godard.
And eventually it's about rebellion. The kids conspire to stage a revolt that takes over the whole school, this on the same day as an important public ceremony is supposed to take place on the grounds. The ceremony is turned into a circus, smashed up. The kids walk triumphant on the roof of the school, heroes of the revolution. French students would rejoice to see this in '68. The film was banned at the time as morally dangerous.
You can see how Vigo was born to anarchist parents, how he was a poet by inclination who wanted the spontaneous burst that turns life upside down and climbs up to where a view is possible. He was cut tragically short while on his way to becoming a Fellini, the story goes.
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