Monday, September 17, 2007

L'Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)

*****
France

Jean Vigo's only full-length feature is a poem, a tonic, a precious, precious thing. A breezy, entrancing love story, with Jean Dasté and Dita Parlo as naive newlyweds (both of them profoundly sexy in an unassuming way) embarking upon their non-honeymoon aboard his shabby, cluttered barge. The brash, uncouth and just generally priceless Michel Simon is the first mate.
It's impossible to determine the precise elements that combine into the film's dreamy, intoxicating pull. But Vigo was certainly onto something with all this combining of purposely, charmingly clumsy naturalism and unshowy but piercing surrealism. It's as close as any piece of art could hope to get to evoking the rich, bracing gust of young desire, of sensuality and longing.

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