L’Atalante is one of the foundation stones of French cinema, regularly
cited among the top ten films ever made and a source of inspiration
for directors ranging from François Truffaut to Leos Carax. Unlike
most love stories, Jean Vigo’s only feature-length film begins with a
wedding rather than concludes with one, as small-town girl Juliette
marries skipper Jean and embarks on the river barge “L’Atalante” with
her new husband, his first mate Père Jules, a cabin boy, and a host
of unruly cats. The slim narrative focuses on the early exuberance of
married life and the first trials as routine settles in, but the lasting
power of L’Atalante is in Vigo’s sensual way of rendering his actors’
faces, his poetic images of life on and along the Seine, a gently digressive
narrative attuned both to the comedic and dreamlike aspects
of daily living, and the combination of gruffness and tenderness that
make Michel Simon’s irrepressible performance as Père Jules one of
the greatest in screen history. Working against the clock as he was dying
of tuberculosis, the 29-year-old Vigo achieved a radically original,
ebullient celebration of life, the source of iconic images such as the
bride and groom at the prow of the ship as it slips through the dusk.

Jean Vigo

Jean Vigo
Albert Riéra

Jean Dasté
Dita Parlo
Michel Simon

89 min.
France, 1934
DCP, DVD, Blu-Ray

Janus Films