Thursday, February 20, 2014

A propos de Nice

Directed and edited by Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman and written by Vigo with photography by Kaufman, A propos de Nice is a silent documentary film that explores the social inequalities and daily routines of the people in the city of Nice in France. The film is a 24-minute short is the first of four films by Vigo who was widely considered to be one of the key figures of French cinema. The result is one of the most gorgeous films of the silent era that would redefine the idea of what documentary and film can be.

The film is about a day in the life of Nice in France where a lot goes on where the rich enjoy the beach as there’s parties and such. Yet, there’s also a side where the poor struggle to live day-by-day as it expresses the social inequality that is happening the city. All of which is told through images that are very striking by Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman as the latter does the film’s black-and-white photography where he captures images where beauty just simply understates its description. Even in scenes where it is shot in the slums and factories in the city have this quality in the image that are just entrancing to look at. Throughout the film, there’s images of parades where women are dancing as Vigo and Kaufman shoot from below where they get a lot of good up skirt shots.

One aspect of the film that is unique is the editing as it’s very stylized that includes matching dissolves of a man watching a woman sitting on a chair looking at the beach as she wears different clothes and then appears naked. It’s part of the world that Vigo and Kaufman wants to create where it has this element of fantasy of a world where there’s a lot happening but the rich and privileged seem oblivious or indifferent to what’s going on in the streets away from the beaches and dancehalls. Even as the direction has images and compositions that are offbeat with shots of the city from above or the camera being somewhat slanted to convey that sense of style and beauty of the city itself. Adding to the film’s unique tone is Marc Perrone’s score from its 2001 reissue as it’s playful at times but also somber as it’s largely dominated by an accordion and an organ.

The 2011 2-disc Region 1 DVD/1-disc Region A Blu-Ray of a collection of Vigo’s films called The Complete Jean Vigo features A propos de Nice is a new high-definition digital transfer that was restored for the collection in its original 1:33:1 full-frame theatrical aspect ratio. The special features for the film includes an audio commentary track from author Michael Temple who wrote a book on Vigo. Temple’s commentary talks about the film and Jean Vigo as well as parts of his life. Even as he briefly appears in his own film which Vigo did for fun in his partnership with Boris Kaufman at the time. Notably as Temple talks about Vigo’s politics and the things he wanted to say with his first film as it’s a very fascinating commentary. The 22-minute alternate edited version of the film by Vigo is essentially a version that features a few extended sequences as well as some extra shots of the beach and the city though it doesn’t feature any music.

A propos de Nice is a majestic film from Jean Vigo & Boris Kaufman. The film is a unique interpretation of what would become the documentary as well as a film filled with dazzling images that blurs the line between reality and fiction. Especially for the way it deals with social inequality and life in the city of Nice. In the end, A propos de Nice is a sensational film from Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman.

Jean Vigo Films: Taris - Zero de Conduite - L’Atalante - The Auteurs #34: Jean Vigo

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