Friday, August 12, 2011


L'Atalante (1934) - Vigo
A country girl, Juliette (Dita Parlo) marries a young skipper of a barge named L'Atalante on the Seine. They sail from one port to another along the river with a couple of shipmates- buffoonish, grizzled sailor Le père Jules (the great Michel Simon) who owns a dozen cats that seem to be always roaming around the ship and a kid. Juliette soon finds the life on the barge boring. Her eyes sparkle when she hear the news of docking in Paris.

It's a simple story beautifully told- young lovebirds, temptation of the City of Lights, jealousy, rash decisions and regret. The moving ship inevitably provides plenty of great cinematic visuals. There are many memorable scenes too- Le père Jules' cabin of curiousities, a street peddler's one man band act, and of course, the memorable under water scene. But my favorite scene is the newly weds sleepless night apart where Vigo goes back and forth with the simplest, yet very effective shadow play to tie them together.

I've heard a lot about L'Atalante's influence on my favorite film, Leos Carax's Les Amants du Pont-Neuf and now I can see why. A beautiful movie. I'll just go and put my head in the water bucket now.

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