L'Atalante (1934) by Jean Vigo. For a moment I thought this might be the oldest film I've seen, but Chaplin's The Kid is from 1921—even though it feels more modern, somehow?

Generally, I'm probably not enough into cinema history to truly appreciate this kind of films. Critics write this is among the best of all time, but I don't really see it? Is the film itself so great, or is it great because of how much it ended up influencing (French) cinema?

Some initial notes and thoughts:

  • I really liked the plot's premise: village girl Juliette marries barge captain Jean, she moves in with him, his first mate and an unnamed kid on a barge that travels between Le Havre and Paris, the couple quickly deteriorates. Some scenes are just chef's kiss (underwater scene; weird dream sex scene). The whole thing kind of just works
  • shaky shots, clumsy editing. It's crazy to think that this was all done by hand (like the first mate's Chinese fan)
  • sound is SO BAD. Is it just the digitization, or was this actually how going to the movies felt like in the 30s? I could barely understand some dialogs, and they were OBVIOUSLY added over the film tape. This is really just-out-of-the-silent-era filmmaking (Vigo's first short was silent, Parlo (Juliette)'s first films were silent)
  • very cool titles! Modern, 20s-style sans serif lettering, and I like how titles actually overlap shortly instead of a clean transition (check them out, they start at 25s)
  • so many cats and kittens on the barge!! Not a single meow though (back to sound: they probably just didn't have the cats around on the day they recorded sound)
  • the first mate's "tattoos": WOW. Modern-day hipster tattoos are a different thing altogether
  • I thought I was hearing a German accent in the Dita Parlo lines. She was born in present-day Szczecin, Poland, previously Stettin, Germany
  • this is Jean Vigo's only feature-length film. He did a few shorts that I'll watch next: À propos de Nice (1930, Archive.org) Zero For Conduct (1933, Archive.org or MUBI). He died from tuberculosis on the year L'Atalante came out, at 29.
  • from Wikipedia: "Vigo was born to Emily Clero and the militant anarchist Miguel Almereyda. Much of Vigo's early life was spent on the run with his parents. His father was imprisoned and probably murdered in Fresnes Prison on 13 August 1917 although the death was officially a suicide." ...wow

Might come back to these after I read up on the film a bit! It's now gone from MUBI, but if you want to catch it, it's on Archive.org like a lot of other public domain work. Worth a watch!