Vigo, Jean

Vigo, Jean
   Director. Born Jean Bonaventure de Vigo Almereyda in Paris, Jean Vigo was the son of Catalan revolutionary Miguel Almereyda. Vigo's father was convicted of espionage and found dead in his prison cell in 1917. He seemed never to recover from the loss. He spent his childhood in boarding schools, abandoned by his mother. The experience affected him profoundly and would influence his filmmaking. He was fascinated by the cinema at an early age, perhaps because of its offer of escape. He studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, then sought to work in the cinema, and was hired on at the independent Nice-based Studios de la Victorine, run by Serge Sandberg, in 1928.
   Vigo made his first film, A Propos de Nice, in 1930. The film was a satiric documentary comment on the age and established the cinematographic interrogation of the political conditions of the age that would characterize Vigo's short career. His next film, Taris ou la natation (1931), was a documentary on swimming centered on champion swimmer Jean Taris. Vigo's third film was Zéro de conduite (1933), an exploration of oppression and rebellion in a boys' boarding school. Now recognized as one of the great classics of the cinema, the film was highly criticized and banned when it was released for its depiction of the overthrow of an oppressive order, which the government of the day deemed "anti-French." There was one last film, Vigo's only feature-length film, L'Atalante (1934). The film is a powerful exploration of the incompatibility of the desire for independence, self-de-termination, and harmony with the natural world and the materialism of modern society. L 'Atalante was also panned when released but has since become considered one of the greatest films ever made. The studio cut and edited the film before its release to such an extent that it bore little resemblance to the director's original. It has been partially restored, but to date, no complete version has been released.
   Tragically, Vigo died of tuberculosis before he could make any other films. However, it is fair to say that few other filmmakers, no matter how many films they made, have reached the stature he now holds in French film history. He is seen as an important contributor to Le Réalisme poétique or poetic realism and a master of film technique, who elevated film to the status of art, and who issued a challenge through his work that other filmmakers do likewise. He has been recognized as a significant influence on filmmakers as diverse as Jean Renoir, Luis Bunuel, and Alain Resnais.
   Historical Dictionary of French Cinema by Dayna Oscherwitz & Mary Ellen Higgins

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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  • Vigo, Jean — (1905 1934)    Director. Born Jean Bonaventure de Vigo Almereyda in Paris, Jean Vigo was the son of Catalan revolutionary Miguel Almereyda. Vigo s father was convicted of espionage and found dead in his prison cell in 1917. He seemed never to… …   Historical Dictionary of French Cinema

  • Vigo, Jean — born April 26, 1905, Paris, France died Oct. 5, 1934, Paris French film director. The son of a militant anarchist who died in prison under suspect circumstances, he spent an unhappy childhood in boarding schools. His first film was the satiric… …   Universalium

  • Vigo, Jean — (1905 1934)    film director    Born in Paris, Jean Vigo, whose innovative style of cynicism, stark realism, and dramatic imagery would profoundly influence French cinema, began his life with both medical and social difficulties. An asthmatic,… …   France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present

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