Saturday, February 22, 2014


Directed and edited by Jean Vigo, Taris, roi de l’eau (Jean Taris, Swimming Champion) is a 10-minute documentary exploring the life and accomplishments of Jean Taris. Told in a very stylized format that would re-define the ideas of cinema, the film wouldn’t just blur the ideas of documentary as it would be the second of the four films Vigo made in his brief lifetime. The result is an exhilarating film from Jean Vigo.

The film is essentially a portrait into the accomplishments of French swimming champion Jean Taris who tells his own story as well as how he swims. Much of it is presented in an array of visual styles with its use of close-ups, underwater shots, and all sorts of things to play up into his achievement as a swimming champion. Through Jean Vigo’s direction, the film creates many images that are just entrancing from the way Taris dives as well some slow-motion shots of him swimming on water as the beauty of the images is just understating it. With the help of cinematographers Boris Kaufman, G. Lafont, and Lucas Procede, the look of the film is grainy and shot in a ratio that is reminiscent of the newsreels.

With the sound work of Gaumont Petersen-Poulsen, the film maintains this idea of what it’s like to be in the water while Vigo incorporates footage of Taris’ swim meet that is inter-cut with him swimming in a different pool as if he’s racing. It’s all told in this style that is just engaging as the overall result is a truly enchanting film.

The 2-disc Region 1 DVD/1-disc Region A Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection set known as The Complete Jean Vigo presents the film in its original 1:19:1 aspect ratio which was the common form for newsreels with a new high-definition digital transfer and remastered Dolby Digital Mono sound. The film features a commentary track from Michael Temple who wrote a biography on Vigo in 2001. Temple’s commentary reveals that the film was made as a commission piece for the government where Vigo didn’t get final cut as some filmmakers from the production did get other filmmakers involved. While Vigo wasn’t pleased with the results, Temple did reveal that many of the visual techniques Vigo did present were considered innovative for the time including the use of slow-motion and other editing tricks as it’s a very enjoyable commentary.

Taris, roi de l’eau is an extraordinary film from Jean Vigo about Jean Taris. Filled with gorgeous images and unique editing tricks, the film is truly a work of art in the way it plays with the idea of a documentary film. In the end, Taris, roi de l’eau is a rapturous film from Jean Vigo.

Jean Vigo Films: A propos de Nice - Zero de Conduite - L’Atalante - The Auteurs #34: Jean Vigo

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