Monday, April 14, 2014
Zero de conduite
Written, edited, and directed by Jean Vigo, Zero de conduite (Zero for Conduct) is a forty-four minute short film about a group of boarding school kids rebelling against the authority in their school as a commemoration day is approaching. It’s a film that explores the world of kids dealing with authority as a young kid becomes part of a small group of misfits who would rebel against their masters. Starring Jean Daste. Zero de conduite is a dazzling film from Jean Vigo.
The film is a look into a group of kids who would make plans to upstage their headmaster and other authority figures at a French boarding school. Among these kids is a young boy named Tabard (Gerard de Bedarieux) who is new to the school as he befriends the small group of misfit kids as the only authority figure the boys like is the new teacher/schoolmaster Huguet (Jean Daste) as he is young and likes to Charles Chaplin impressions. The film’s screenplay that features dialogue by Charles Goldblatt has a realness to the way kids deal with authority though the authority figures aren’t entirely bad. It’s a very simple film that explores kids dealing with school and detention as they want to fight back against oppression.
Jean Vigo’s direction is very lively as well as entrancing in the way he presents life at a boarding school. Some of the film is shot in the room where the kids sleep as well as in the classroom. Vigo’s compositions play into that sense of repression but maintain something that has this sense of anarchy in the presentation. Notably in scenes where the kids create some trouble as Vigo’s editing with its use of slow-motion cutting, dissolves, and early ideas of jump-cuts would add to the sense of style and energy of the film. Vigo is able to create something naturalistic in the performances of his young actors with Gerard de Bedarieux being the standout while Jean Daste is excellent as the schoolmaster Huguet as well as Delphin as the miniature headmaster. Overall, Vigo creates a very sensational and enthralling film about rebellion at a board school.
Cinematographer Boris Kaufman does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography where there‘s some grainy images but also some that are rich in some of its exteriors. The sound work of Royne-Bocquel is superb for the atmosphere its created as way as how certain objects are captured through sound. The film’s music by Maurice Jaubert is amazing for its playful score that includes some upbeat orchestral pieces and some cadence-based pieces for some of the moments of the film.
The Region 1 2-disc DVD/Region A 1-disc Blu Ray from the Criterion Collection set known as The Complete Jean Vigo presents the film in its 1:19:1 aspect ratio which was a format for newsreels as it is shown with a new high-definition digital transfer and a remastered Dolby Digital Mono sound in French with English subtitles. The film features a commentary track by Vigo biographer Michael Temple who talks about the film which is Vigo’s most autobiographical. Temple also discusses Vigo’s father who was a famous anarchist that was rumored to be killed by the government as the film represented Vigo’s anarchist politics. Temple also talks about the production and why it got banned in its initial release as it’s a very engaging commentary piece from the biographer.
The DVD set also includes a 44-page booklet that features essays on Vigo and his work as Brooklyn video-maker and writer B. Kite writes an essay on Zero de conduite entitled Rude Freedom. Kite’s essay talks about the film and its importance to Vigo’s career as well as French cinema. Particularly as he talks about the film’s story and the portrayal of his characters that is so different from what is usually portrayed in films. It’s a very insightful essay from the writer.
Zero de conduite is a remarkable film from Jean Vigo. Though it’s only 44-minutes, it’s a film that manages to make all of its running-time and images worth it. Especially for its sense of anarchy that young audiences can relate to. In the end, Zero de conduite is a sensational film from Jean Vigo.
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