Completed by 29-year-old Jean Vigo shortly before his tragic death from leukemia, L'Atalante (1934) is an expression of lyric sensuality. Jean (Jean Dasté) is the captain of a barge—L’Atalante—who marries Juliette (Dita Parlo), a country girl, and brings her on board to live with him, alongside a crew that includes a rambunctious ex-sailor (Michel Simon), a practically mute cabin boy, and a gaggle of cats. Their journey becomes a symbol for the mysterious intimacy of marriage, as the shy bride and the inarticulate young husband struggle to recognize their true need for each other. Vigo reveals an intense romanticism in L'Atalante, an eroticism that co-exists with a gentleness he displays in his depiction of the young newlyweds, who are rendered in a series of unforgettable, dream-like images by cinematographer Boris Kaufman (On the Waterfront).
Vigo's untimely death meant that the world never saw the film as he intended it. His producers were horrified by Vigo’s finished work and proceeded to brutally re-edit it, but it was still seen as a failure. However, over the years, L'Atalante was restored in various forms, with the most complete version realized in 2001. L'Atalante, like all of Vigo's films (four in total), was mostly forgotten by the late 1930s, but his work began to be rediscovered after WWII. It exerted a profound influence on the French New Wave, especially Francois Truffaut, who, after seeing L'Atalante, was “incredibly overwhelmed with wild enthusiasm for [Vigo's] work.”
Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. Students meet in the 2nd floor Multimedia room for an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. The film itself is shown in one of our theaters. Your ticket for the screening, as well as popcorn and a drink, are included with your registration.