During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
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
Ranked number 50 non-English-speaking film in the critics' poll conducted by the BBC in 2018. See more »
2017 --- Gaumont's restored version in 4K, presented at the Festival de Cannes, Cannes Classics - Copies Restaurées, based on the the closest version to the Director's "cut", after a meticulous research and reconstruction supervised by . See more »
My big problem with "L'Atalante" is how much of what we see and hear was really Jean Vigo's intention (as he didn't finish it) when he was making it? The restored version is the only version and was reconstructed from many disparate bits about 15 years ago, meaning it has had running order interpretations foisted upon it. I think most of the film we see came from the BFI in London, remixed with other clips into some kind of logical sequence by Gaumont in Paris and sold as a Forgotten Masterpiece.
Well, if you can call such luck ending up as a masterpiece it was purely unintentional by Vigo - he didn't see what we do now.
What we have though is definitely a series of relentlessly beautiful, thought-provoking, impressionistic black and white images hung together for 87 minutes with a very flimsy story of 3 people on a barge. The kid was background fluff and doesn't really count. Simon was his usual farcical self, I wish he'd been background as well. Daste and Parla were both later in "La Grande Illusion", can you really forget her as the German widow Elsa in favour of this? The framings and compositions are wonderful to see - how important was it to include distant shots of power stations, cranes etc? Why did Daste stare right into the underwater camera? How come every available surface seems uncomfortable or strewn with bizarre objects or people? Why just the one short aerial shot? And so many other questions which are either pointless or beyond my intelligence; somebody somewhere must know!
I find every time I watch "L'Atalante" it grows on me - I thought it was pants in '91, now I think it's brill! We all move at different speeds - some people will never be able to see this as anything but boring while some people thought it was a classic before they saw it! Whereas I'm still on the voyage of discovery with this one and will definitely watch it again, but not as an indispensable film, more as akin to a trip to the Art Gallery.
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