In honor of Valentine’s Day, today’s post concerns one of my favorite cinematic love stories – Jean Vigo’s L’atalante from 1934.
Jean Vigo was the James Dean of movie directors: he lived fast, he died young (of tuberculosis at 29), and he left – if not a beautiful corpse – then at least a beautiful body of work. This includes three short films (A Propos de Nice, Taris – Roi de l’eau and Zero de Conduite) and one feature, L’atalante. All of this work was done in a span of just five years, from 1929 to 1934, and constitutes a total running time of less than three hours. Yet Vigo’s status as a cinematic immortal is ensured – in large part due to L’atalante, one of the most ecstatic hymns to romantic love ever to grace the silver screen.
L’atalante opens with the marriage of a young couple in a provincial French town: Jean (Jean Daste) is the well-traveled captain of the barge L’atalante, Juliette (Dita Parlo) is a naïve young woman who has always lived with her parents and knows nothing of the world outside of their hometown. Since the couple has barely had the chance to get acquainted, their relationship will be tested as they travel down the Seine river from Le Havre to Paris on an expedient honeymoon/cargo delivery trip. The other central character in this romantic drama is the most unforgettable – Pere Jules (character actor Michel Simon in a legendary performance), an eccentric, heavily tattooed, cat-loving first mate, whose conversations with Juliette provoke the first tensions in the newlyweds’ marriage. This foreshadows the more serious rift that will occur when the barge arrives in Paris and Juliette runs off, seduced by the City of Light.
L’atalante is often considered a work of “Poetic Realism,” a loosely defined movement of French films from the 1930s that took the poetic innovations of avant-garde movements such as Surrealism and Impressionism and wedded them to the conventions of narrative continuity filmmaking (the “invisible” style of Hollywood), thereby making them more accessible to mainstream audiences. The key filmmakers of Poetic Realism include Jean Renoir, Marcel Carne and Julien Duvivier. But even among this esteemed company, Vigo was a man apart, a visual poet who attempted to stuff his movies with as many rhapsodic and lyrical passages as possible.
Examples of some of the intoxicating imagery from L’atalante: early in the film, Juliette tells Jean she had seen a vision of him before they ever met by plunging her face into water – thus knowing he would be her “true love.” After she runs away, Jean falls into despair. But mindful of her story, he jumps into a canal and, in a series of sumptuously photographed underwater images, sees Juliette in her wedding dress superimposed everywhere around him. Later, Juliette and Jean spend their first night as a married couple apart. As they lie in separate beds in different parts of town, Vigo makes us feel their painful romantic longing by intercutting between overhead shots of the two of them. Not only is the framing and positioning of the actors similar in each shot, Vigo boldly lights both locations in a similarly stylized way: a mirrorball effect with tiny dots of shadow falling on each character. Then, in an exquisite series of shots, Jean and Juliette begin to slowly kiss and caress their own bodies, their movements eroticized by Vigo’s use of dissolves and slow motion cinematography.
Once seen, the sadness of this separated couple will never be forgotten. Because of the painful nature of their conflict, which is predicated on Jean’s jealousy and quick temper, their eventual reunion is made all the sweeter. Fittingly, it is Jules who finds Juliette and leads her back to the barge. When she and Jean see each other, they embrace so passionately that they collapse together on the floor. It is our final image of them before Vigo cuts to an overhead shot of L’atalante sailing down the mighty, eternally flowing Seine. This sublime juxtaposition, which occurs as Maurice Jaubert’s memorable, poignant score reaches a crescendo on the soundtrack, is worthy of Frank Borzage in its suggestion of love as a transcendental force.
Much of the credit for the film’s intense beauty belongs to Boris Kaufman, the talented Russian cinematographer who was also the brother of Dziga-Vertov and Mikhail Kaufman (creators of Man with the Movie Camera). Boris went on to an illustrious career in Hollywood, eventually winning an Oscar for his work on On the Waterfront in 1954. But he always retained a special place in his heart for the work he did with Jean Vigo, going so far as to describe their relationship as “cinematic paradise.” This is a phrase that could apply not only to what went on behind the camera but to what they managed to capture in front of it as well.
The only Region 1 DVD of L’atalante was released by New Yorker Video in 2003 and is now out of print. It is rumored that the film will be released in new Blu-ray and DVD editions by the Criterion Collection later this year.
February 9th, 2011 at 1:08 pm
Coincidentally, I am mentioning Boris Kaufman in class today. I had forgotten he also did L’ATALANTE. It’s been a long time since I have seen it. Hope Criterion comes through.
February 9th, 2011 at 6:12 pm
It’s amazing how interconnected world cinema was in the late silent and early sound eras. I mean, the brother of Dziga Vertov shooting both L’atalante and On the Waterfront? How about the fact that Casablanca stars actors from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, M and The Rules of the Game?!
December 19th, 2011 at 8:29 am
[…] As with BFI’s Bunuel release, Criterion has seemingly done the impossible by taking Jean Vigo’s beloved films of the late silent/early sound era, which have been kicking around forever in poor quality versions, and managed to make them look sparkling and fresh and new. L’atalante in particular is a revelation; it has always been the most modern movie of its era because of its unabashed eroticism as well as its incredibly striking sense of composition (courtesy of ace cinematographer Boris Kaufman). Rounding out the set are all of Vigo’s other movies: Taris (a short experimental documentary about a swimmer), A Propos de Nice (one of the most poetic and playful of all city symphony films) and his immortal tribute to anarchic youth, Zero de Conduite. Vigo was a visionary genius who left this world far too soon. But his films will live forever and, thanks to Criterion, can now be readily experienced under the optimum conditions they should be. L’atalante essay here. […]
October 5th, 2015 at 6:27 pm
I had read Vigo’s Valentine and I am confuse, but they talk bout how good of man he was what he has accomplished and did during the time centuries he was alive. I guess the word Vigo’s Valentine mean something dealing with love and what Valentine’s consist of.
October 5th, 2015 at 7:53 pm
Way too short and vague, Bianca. “Something” dealing with love? L’ATALANTE is a love story that was made with love, no? 5/10
October 6th, 2015 at 8:46 pm
L’atalante was a very interesting and well produced film, I also thought the scene of Jean jumping into the water was particularly well done by the way that Juliette was visible in each scene and tied in the earlier part of the story. The film was quite slow moving with a lot of long takes; this was done in a way that makes you feel quite sorry for Juliette in the beginning as she looks rather sad in her wedding dress as she is heading to the barge with her new husband forgoing a proper wedding celebration and a honeymoon. This all seems to change once they are on board and you it changes your mindset to being able to travel and get out of the small town.
I thought that a great example of Poetic Realism and the blending of comedy and tragedy was in the scene where Jean is depressed and lifeless after Juliette has left and he is playing draughts with Pere Jules. Jean is clearly suffering but this is a funny scene where he is being beaten by his opponent who is playing both sides of the board. L’atalante is love story set in Paris but has none of the glitz that we would normally expect, this is a working class couple and who are clearly in love but most of the story takes place on a cat filled barge with a scruffy old man and a nameless boy, far away from the city. I thought this is a great story of love and life of everyday normal working people.
October 7th, 2015 at 8:00 am
Good observations, Robert, but you’ve got it backwards that Jean is being beaten at chess by the cheating Pere Jules. It’s Jean who is WINNING – in spite of the fact that he’s barely paying attention to the game and Jules is cheating. That’s what makes it so funny. 10/10
October 6th, 2015 at 9:34 pm
It’s a shame that Jean Vigo had a short life. Although, I’m not familiar with his short films, his feature, L’atalante, is a remarkable and a fascinating movie. It makes you wonder what other types of films would he had contributed, if he had gotten the chance. I think that if Jean Vigo would’ve lived longer, his films would had defined the concept of “Poetic Realism” in a more detailed way. At first I didn’t understand its definition; however, when associating it with Surrealism and Impressionism, it helped to build a better picture of it. Also, I think that the examples of the intoxicating imagery mentioned above, were successfully instilled into the audience, because of the effective use of long takes and long shots. These scenes made you get the most out of the surrounding, making you feel almost as if you were there. For example, when Jean was depressed and acted in a comatose-like manner, they showed long takes and shots of the urban city and the “L’atalante” barge moving in the canal. It was something that made you feel even sadder, and allowed you to feel Jean’s despair. This was right before the erotic scene.
I’m not quite sure if the characters are also a characteristic of Poetic Realism. Not necessarily speaking of working class characters, but more of their personality side and how they add tone to the story. If so, Pere Jules is a great example of it. The way he behaves is almost poetic, not in a romantic dramatic way, but in a comical and amusing way.
October 6th, 2015 at 10:02 pm
This response does a great job of summing up the movie in just a few paragraphs. Some of the most important parts of the movie are mentioned, and with out seeing the movie you get the basic plot. The ending is mentioned but doesn’t ruin the movie because it is much more dramatic then it is described here.
The love story is very relatable, so the audience can most likely relate if they have ever been in love. This review is defiantly detailed and gives you an idea of what the film will love like visually with all of the examples of shots. Like in the third to last paragraph where you state “Then, in an exquisite series of shots, Jean and Juliette begin to slowly kiss and caress their own bodies, their movements eroticized by Vigo’s use of dissolves and slow motion cinematography.” It gives you a clear mental picture of how this scene looked in the movie itself.
Overall it was a great summary and after seeing the movie.
October 7th, 2015 at 12:16 am
This response to the film l’atalante describes more than just the film but also talks a bit about the director Jean Vigo telling us a bit about the amount of films he made and how he died at a young age to get the readers to know something about who the man that directed l’atalante was. It points out specific scenes that make this film a bit of a surrealist film and a poetic realism film such as how the response talks about the underwater scenes and how the character jean sees his wife in her wedding dress when he is in the water even though she really wasn’t there then the scene when the couple sleep on separate beds the writer talks about how the two can still feel each other as the scene shows the two kissing themselves as if they were together are a few of the stranger scenes in the movie and the most interesting. It talks about some of the other important moments and about the story of the film being about a women who marries a man then has to live with him on a ship. It lets the reader know that this is a love story kind of film and gets the reader to know what they are in for if they ever choose to watch the movie themselves.
October 7th, 2015 at 8:31 am
In response to L’Atalante, this post vividly paints a picture of the love story of Jean and Juliette. I agree that from a cinematography standpoint that the shots as well as the lighting usage were excellent ways of portraying this romantic french poetic realism film. However, I have to disagree with the premise of the film being a romantic love story. Even from the start of the film I felt as thought the wedding scene was almost more of a mourning. While mixed with comical events, such as Pere Jules and his first mate being ridiculous while preparing the barge, I could still sense that the Juliette’s family was not the happiest about her marriage. As the film goes on, I felt distracted by the outer events such as Juliette telling Jules about the water. By doing this and seeing each other while sticking ones head in the water, it meant that they were truly in love. This is very cute and romantic, however I believe it just shows how naive Juliette truly is. While the couple is making their trip down the Siene, we begin to see Jeans true colors of jealousy and a quick temper start to show. Going back to Juliette’s naivety, I find that she is realizing that she has married someone that she truly does not know. Once again, all of this seems to be shadowed by the comedy that blends throughout this tragedy. Pere Jules comical relief of cats having babies and his numerous trinkets, I believe was just ways to distract the viewer of what was truly going on in the “love story” between Jean and Juliette. Juliette finally gets to experience Paris, and of course is caught up in it since she has never been exposed to such a wonderful city. When Jean and Juliette are separated after she has been swept away by the city, we see them sleeping and longing for each other. Vigo does an impressive job in positioning the shots so that we can see the couple doing the same thing and longing for one another even though they are in different places. This plays into my belief that the film is truly not a love story, but that it was shot to create the illusion that it was one. I personally believed that even in the end, when the couple is finally reunited, thier passionate embrace and final “fall” was a representation of Juliette just giving into what is comfortable, and not truly knowing what love is.
October 7th, 2015 at 9:54 am
I really enjoyed L’Atalante, it was very charming, well constructed, and I really did enjoy Michel Simon’s performance, I really thought he was the heart of the film.
I’ve never been too crazy about romance films, but this was so much more than a romance film. The film’s plot is fairly simple (not saying that in a bad way), but it’s stuffed with so many ideas revolving around how romantic relationships work, and I would also say that this film can easily be applied to today’s modern relationships. I love how there was a balance of romance and comedy throughout as well, and it reminded me of how the comedy in Our Hospitality is timeless, I believe that L’Atalante falls in the same category.
Jean Vigo did a fantastic job with constructing the film, and not just because he was able to tell a beautiful romance story, but because he was able to tell it visually and mastered it. The scene where Jean jumps in the water looking for Juliette is a perfect example of this because the scene is pure visuals and really sticks with the viewer. I love the fact that Jean Vigo experimented with a lot of interesting camera shots and angles, it proves that the man was way ahead of his time.
Lastly, I enjoyed the film because of Michel Simon’s character, he was obviously one of the most colorful and likable characters in the film because I feel that a lot of people can easily connect with his character. The character is very dim witted, obnoxious, sarcastic, but during the scene where he showing Juliette his room, you then start to create this soft spot for him and see that he’s a very beautiful and lovable person.
October 7th, 2015 at 9:57 am
I also would like to add that it’s super frustrating/upsetting that Jean Vigo only directed ONE feature 😦 I really wished he did more, but you can easily watch L’Atalante over and over again.
October 7th, 2015 at 1:14 pm
I think this page gives you really great insight on the film, “L’atalante”, and Jean Vigo himself. This film goes down in cinematic history as one of the earliest dipiction of romance seen on the silver screen. It beautifully represents the raw emotions and consequences, relationships can endure during trouble times. A lot of credit can be awarded to Boris Kaufman’s cinematography for transitioning the characters feelings to the audiences. In the scenes where Jean and Julie the are unhappily apart, Vigo and Kaufman brilliantly displays how love can be miserable at times. Jeans depressed nature when Julie the leaves and doesn’t came back was a great example of how Vigo knew how to bring those emotions to life. For Juliette, I found it harder to sympathize to her because of the situation, I felt, she put herself in. Since the beginning, I felt Juliette was pushed into a marriage she wasnt too sure she wanted. It’s seemed love wasn’t there at the start. She had to develop her love for Jean over time. I also noticed Jeans jealous nature didn’t help speed things up either. It was just unfortunate that it took her to run off, for who knows how long, for both of them to realize how much love they have for each other. Overall, I didn’t enjoy the movie that much, do to my dislike in most romance movies, but I do recognize the importance of this film to cinema and I am very satisfied with view this piece of history.
October 7th, 2015 at 1:46 pm
The movie is a great example of Poetic realism as we learnt the definition in the class. The beginning of the movie was a tad boring to me since I usually prefer fast-past movie to draw my attention. However, half was through the movie, some of the issues that the couple encountered drew my attention and made me become more interested to know the ending of the movie. From the psychological and sociological perspective, this movie can be a great example of what human beings imagine and fantasize about and what they really encounter in real life. Juliette had always dreamt of Paris as a great example of city filled with love and beauty and fantasized about having a romantic time there. However, in reality she realized that this beautiful city can be also filled with crimes, hatreds, impurity and ugliness. This movie is also a great example of love story which depicts that pure love can conquer all the obstacles that people would come across in life!
October 7th, 2015 at 2:14 pm
The most beautiful aspect of this film is the way it depicts love in its truest form. You can live happily ever after with someone but you have to live with the whole person. It takes a lot of work. Juliette made the best of her situation . She chose to live with her love on a boat full of cats, dirty laundry, her husband’s filthy, tattooed best friend and a cabin boy. Jean is used to the rugged life of a sailor. He doesn’t see the need to change the bed linen after one the cats had her kittens on it.
In their first confrontation as a couple, Juliette goes off to see Paris alone and Jean set sail down the river abandoning her. Jean soon regrets this decision and tries to find a poetic way back to his wife by jumping into the river.
From the couples agonizing time apart to their awkward and joyful reunion, this movie represents two people willing to work through their problems and building a foundation of trust.
October 7th, 2015 at 3:36 pm
L’atalante is a great example of poetic realism when compared to the Hollywood films of the same era. This is a love story but doesn’t depict unrealistic standards that are shown in some Hollywood counterparts. This film lets the viewer see all aspects of a marriage instead of just passion and romance. The small details like Juliette casually being pushed on a pole to get on the barge, tackling a closet full of dirty laundry right after they are married and Jules mentioning seeing Juliette in her night gown while drunk and her reaction of running for a robe are all details that make this film very personable. In the Hollywood version of romantic movies you never see dirty laundry; people wake up perfectly groomed, women proudly walk around in glamorous fur lined night gowns and everyday is full of love notes and roses. The Hollywood version is not a depiction of everyday life. Those films convey a fantasy while this film displayed reality and I can see why that can be considered poetic. I would be interested in seeing other films that belong in this genre to see if the poeticism could be more clearly seen. The review mentions poetic realism being defined by “rhapsodic and lyrical passages” and I was expecting the film to be more saturated with this but I guess that would take away from the “realism.” I agree that the scene where Jean jumps in the water searching for Juliette is haunting and displays his despair, desperation and regret but the scene where he is running towards the beach doesn’t have a clear interpretation. I did see similarities between this film and “Man with the Movie Camera” in the cinematography. One specific example is when she returned to the barges and the boat is not there and the camera follows her along the docks. The shots in this scene seemed shorter but it displayed the climate, size and general feel of the setting very accurately. I really enjoyed this film and would watch it again. Although Jean Vigo was young, he seemed to have an accurate idea of the true meaning of relationships and he conveyed that beautifully in his film.
October 7th, 2015 at 3:39 pm
The film, L’atalante, was interesting to watch because as it was playing I went back and forth between deciding if I was enjoying it or not. L’atalante conveys poetic realism with a love story that centers around a regular couple; using a combination of comedic and tragic elements throughout. The film is a romantic story between two working-class characters that have their ups and downs and whom are obviously not part of a fairy tale love story, but instead a realistic union. At points throughout the film Jean became quite controlling and jealous that I welcomed the idea of Juliette leaving him with open arms. But, this is why I felt the movie was so effective; it created a candid relationship between two people who had their disagreements but at the end of the day knew that they were meant to be together. A scene that I enjoyed was Juliette’s exploration of Pere’s room and his trinkets. It was the first time that the character Juliette was getting to know Pere as a person. Sadly, Jean ruined that moment between the two as he had ruined many moments; making the film less tolerable to watch, but all the more authentic.
L’atalante used surrealistic shots to creatively communicate the emptiness that Jean felt without Juliette. There was a scene where Jean jumps in the water and there were overlapping images of Juliette; conveying that Jean could see her in the water just as she could see him in the beginning. Jean’s aimless actions and demeanor created a tinge of guilt and gloom for the viewers, tugging on everyone’s heart strings. Both characters had acted impulsively and Jean being a tempered man made it difficult to imagine their relationship standing the test of time. But, when the two rejoin and there was a moment of uncertainty before Juliette jumped to him, I knew that this movie got a hold of me and my love for a sappy ending.
October 7th, 2015 at 3:45 pm
I was never really fond of watching black and white movies; However, L’Atalante has completely changed my perceptions towards all movies in black and white.I would have loved to keep watching the progress from Jean Vigo, yet it is truly painful to know that one of the characters that I admired and was the cause of me liking towards black and white films has passed away in such a short time.
In the movie “L’Atalante” the scene that actually caught my attention and has until the end was the scene were Jean and Juliette depart from her hometown and as Jean shouts with joy and happiness about their departure, Juliette’s family members show bitterness, sadness, and maybe even a bit of regret towards Juliette’s decision. In a way of viewing this scene, Juliette shows a very depressive expression and then later on she is full of joy and curiosity. I belief that in her wedding scene, she is feeling upset by how the family is viewing this marriage.
Truth be told I am a huge fan of romance/comedy movies, and this film has plenty of it!! I just loved that Jean and Juliette had their first quarrel about Juliette being inside Pere Jules’s cabin. Another great moment is when Jean shows his jealous side and how it explodes to the point of actually leaving Juliette all by herself. It seems to me that this was a trail on how much Jean can handle being jealous and how much Juliette can handle the curiosity of being in a completely different environment besides her hometown. Obviously both failed miserably but are then able to reunite with the help of Pere who has triggered the jealous side of Jean and I seriously found this hilarious.
Lastly i felt that the person who was able to keep all of these emotions from Juliette and Jean intact was the one and only Pere Jules. Not only is he an uplifting, easy going, and caring friend, I belief that he is the main reason that Jean is able to keep his job and cure his sanity over the almost huge loss of his first wife. Pere is also in somewhat of an outlet for Juliette’s curiosity. It wasn’t a very long moment but Pere show’s Juliette the many wonders of the outside world within his cabin. His looks may deceive you, but deep down he is truly one in a million people that you can truly call family because when time goes by you can’t help but know that no matter how bad you mess up, Pere will always be there to get you out of trouble.
October 7th, 2015 at 4:23 pm
Throughout the film i felt forced to invest myself in understanding and observing the interactions between the characters. However, the actors give so much life to these characters enough that leaves the audience in love with everyone. The poetic realism is clearly present whether its the music they play or the representation of art through Pere Jules’ trinkets and old antics. The awkward blend of comedic relief and a romantic tragedy gave the film its own tone that let the plot unfold better than it would if an element was taken out. My favorite part is after the checkers game is thrown off the board and Jean plunges his head in the bucket by displaying his sadness and grief throughout one action without saying anything. This gave the film a greater sense reality and the love life struggle of missing someone very important to you. The film stands on its on by having a simple plot within a very small setting the boat and the city. This gave more opportunity for the actors to work with the set as if it were another actor as well. It’s truly sad that romantic comedy’s nowadays aren’t taken literally or do not represent the true essence of real emotion that L’Atalante represents so well.
October 7th, 2015 at 4:27 pm
Having looked at poetic realism in class and its use of metaphors, symbolism, among other poetic elements to express things that can be difficult to express otherwise I absolutely saw L’atalante and thought this is poetic realism. As you mentioned in your post the part where Juliette tells Jean that she saw his face underwater before she met him and that’s how she knew he was the one, that immediately felt surreal, fantastical, made up and you sort of feel that she’s superstitious. Yet this seemingly unbelievable experience really comes full circle in the end when Jean believes as he experiences the same thing. There’s symbolism all around. In the water and in this experience too, does Jean really see her underwater? Does he just imagine he did? Is it more to symbolize that love is becoming stronger and more tangible in their relationship than it was? I believe it’s a little of both. In class someone said that when they think of something poetic they think of Romeo and Juliet, and I agreed and was sort of expecting an unhappy ending or a tragedy at the end. While L’atalante definitely has unhappy situations that could in the moment feel tragic I’m happy that the movie ends on a happy note. I like that we see this relationship and marriage really grow and experience life and its difficulties and its dark moments but also it’s imaginative, beautiful, and enthusiastic moments and come out of it better for having the combination of both. Pere Jules is funny and really he is sort of like a catalyst and a constant throughout the story. Like you mentioned in your post Pere Jules provokes the first of the tensions but he also brings them back together in the end. I like L’atalante very much and the descriptions that you give about the film are beautiful.
October 7th, 2015 at 4:38 pm
Pere Jules didn’t have the look of your standard “cat loving person,” with so many tattoos covering up his entire body, he had a hard (rough around the edges) sailor attitude but be Pere Jules had to have a soft side to him because he was so kind. Pere Jules was the one to went out of his way to find Julette for the captain. Pere Jules also came to the rescues of the captain again to get him out of trouble from the boats owners. Going back to the cats, it was interesting to see that Jelette on the last scene pounced on Jean (the captain) like a cat in the end. Pretty sure the direct did that one on purpose. There was also a scene were the captain was walking around the deck of the barge without his shoes on and creeping around the edges of the boat and that also reminded me of a cat again. There sure were a lot of cat references in this film.
October 7th, 2015 at 4:43 pm
What really helps L’atalante in a Poetic Realism sense is the setting and the continuous water motif. The film, like the ship, is slow starting out, so we get to know the relationship between Jean and Juliette and each of them as people. Their narrative in a sense is spurred on by the water, from Juliette mentioning the folk tale to this showing up again with Jean jumping into it. This time, however, since he has to be pulled out, it puts the water all around him in a less-than-helpful light. I saw this even more when he looks out at the wide ocean. It’s big, almost overwhelming compared to his small river…like how Juliette’s aspirations for seeing the city and the world overpower him. Still, he wants to look out on to it in hopes of seeing her. In this context, it means the last shots of the river add to the feeling that Juliette is more content with a life on the boat, especially with the romantic score as a background.
There’s a real sense of tragedy that Vigo died so young after creating a movie this beautiful, but the fact that he knew he was dying while making this moves me. It says to me that he put all his passion and thought into his one and only feature, and while we can only wonder what kinds of masterpieces he could have created if he was alive longer, at least we have this.
October 7th, 2015 at 5:29 pm
L’atalante was a remarkable film for me. It is one of the best among the love films i have seen, although I have not seen much nor have I seen much other romantic films from this era. I still feel that this film left a strong impression for french poetic realist films and in the world of the cinema as well.
This film was a great example of real love stories, it is not like the cliche love story we see in chick flicks or Disney movies today, with a rich and happy ending. Although this film had a ending in which the married couple, Jean and Juliette, find each other and continue to love one another, there is still a real element that we see in relationships today. There are scenes when Jean fights with Juliette and hurts her as well, and their lifestyle is also an example of how many relationships have different and not always comfortable circumstances. This makes the relationship all the more realistic.
Great film overall, i really enjoyed the imagery and symbolism behind the film,a it’s a shame Vigo was unable to make more films before his death; although most people would agree that this gave the film more sentimental value and encouraged more to watch it.
October 8th, 2015 at 1:31 am
L’atalante is a film produced in 1934 in the French cinematic style of “Poetic Realism”, a loosely defined term that combined the cinematic innovations of the Surrealist and Impressionist movements with the narrative continuity filmmaking of Hollywood in a process that made these two artistic movements more popular among people who would normally not see such types of films. The type of film created is characterized by long shots and long takes, centered on working class characters, and a blending of comedy and tragedy along with a blending of reality and surrealism, or the poetic part of “poetic realism”.
The film has many long shots and long takes but only a few are particularly notable. The first of the film is the lead up to Juliette arriving to the barge. Another is a long take of Jean walking the length of the barge. These long shots and long takes, in my opinion, are a contribution to the “realist” side of the films. The lack of editing for these takes seems to be displaying that these shots haven’t been toyed with; they are life without any alterations.
The three main characters of the film, Jean, Juliette, and Pere Jules are unmistakably working class folk. Juliette is a girl from a small village who has never set foot outside it’s boundaries, Pere Jules is a salty, life-long sailor who’s covered in tattoos of questionable quality and who is quite possibly blind drunk for the majority of the film. Jean is the closest character approaching middle-class, as the captain of the shipping barge, but even he lives a life on the river Seine and washes in buckets. His predilection to violence and jealousy, and lack of shame in displaying these traits, are certainly of working class origins. He has none of the two-faced, bourgeois sensibilities that betray him by being violent in private while maintaining a calm public facade.
The film L’atalante blends the comic with the tragic along with the real and surreal. The film follows the familiar love story of the introduction of the characters, rising tension, a break, and reconciliation. There are many lovely scenes in the movie along with many tragic ones; Jean and Juliette are seemingly at odds with each other and are nothing like each other personality wise. There is one thing that binds them together though and that is the amazing force of their love for eachother. They fight passionately and they love passionately, as commented on by Pere Jules. The tragic parts of the film are in the third act when Juliette runs off to Paris after becoming frustrated with Jean’s suffocating jealousy. These scenes are also some of the most surreal, though they are sprinkled here and there throughout the realist film; like poetic interludes amongst the prose. Juliette’s scenes around Paris are nightmarish in their sense without running too far into expressionism. There are no sharp edges or harsh lights, everything is just “off”, strange, and foreign.