Before dying of tuberculosis in 1934, Jean Vigo left behind one of the most interesting and influential film careers of the 1930s. Around the time that Vigo started to become a filmmaker (1930), a film movement known as "Poetic Realism " began to become popular. The whole purpose of the movement was to approach filmmaking with a much more stylized approach, like the framing and dialogue in a film. It's often compared to "Soviet Montage," which was another extremely important movement for cinema. Vigo created one of the many masterpieces to come out during that period, L'Atalante.
The film follows a married couple's time on a ship known as L'Atalante on their way to Paris. The plot of the film is simple and short but, Vigo makes the most out of it and even goes the extra mile by presenting the film through the use of emphasizing visuals rather than dialogue.
Without L'Atalante, there would most likely be no "French New Wave." After having seen many "French New Wave" films and L'Atalante twice, I began to notice the cinematic parallels between the two. Most prominently, The 400 Blows and Contempt borrow aspects from the film both visually and narratively. While L'Atalante's influence is almost unparalleled, it doesn't overshadow how much of a masterpiece the film remains to this day. Jean Vigo crafts some of the most iconic and best shots in the history of cinema, only rivaled by Vertigo and The Searchers. His direction of every single scene, whether it is a simple dinner scene or swimming in a river, he always demomstrated that he paid close attention. For example, he tried to craft the best sequences he could, such as the "water scene" and the bride walking across the ship. Often, hyper-stylized films come off as pretentious but never did I feel that any aspect of L'Atalante seemed this way, due in part to the director's meticulous approach to every aspect. L'Atalante remains an exceptional masterpiece, one of the greatest films of all time, and one of my favorite films.
Time Stamp: June 2020