This full-length digital version version of Jean Vigo's classic romance ticks all the boxes.
Just as influential today as when critics first placed it among some the greatest films ever made in a 1962 poll, the magic of L’Atalante has not diminished in the years since its original 1934 release. More importantly, the film remains steadfast as an important cornerstone in cinema’s long history, as well a landmark for filmmakers who themselves have become a part of the institution of cinema.
In the far too brief career of director Jean Vigo, L’Atalante stands up as perhaps his most important work. Celebrated now for its radical use of poetic realism – pre-dating Italian neorealist era and later influencing the French Nouvelle Vague – and its display of technical ingenuity, the film, up until the last 20 years, has led a fairly tortured existence. Massacred by the original distributors to a running time of 65 minutes, to see it now as was it intended is both a pleasure and a must.
This story is somewhat straightforward; a newly married couple embarks on a makeshift honeymoon aboard a canal barge. But as Jean and Juliette experience rising tensions, thanks to his is uncontrollable jealousy and her attraction to the bright lights of the big city, their union becomes suddenly fractured.
Here there is an echo of some sorts of FW Murnau’s depiction of troubled a marriage in Sunrise, yet Vigo somehow evokes an even richer spectrum of moods. There are scenes of intense eroticism, warm romance, suspenseful vulnerability and oddball comedy.
As L'Atalante manoeuvres between enchanting love story and the darker realities of working class life, the contrast between the Vigo’s naturalistic style and the more surreal elements make the experience something of an exercise in human emotion. Quite an achievement for a film that clocks in under 90 minutes. As the last of Vigo's films, it is truly a joy to see that L’Atalante's legacy is still being felt.
Both excitement and trepidation in seeing how the additional footage would add to L’Atalante’s lore.
An exhibition in technical ingenuity and visual storytelling that was way ahead of its time.
There’s nothing here to suggest L’Atalante's brilliance has at all diminished as this full-length version ticks all the boxes.