Jean Vigo died at age 29 of tuberculosis, right after completing his only full-length film, L’Atalante. The strange, dreamy love story set on a river barge can be considered a precursor to contemporary cinema in more ways than one: the film’s style finds great lyricism in a gritty and mundance everyday existence; and the film’s controlling investors recut the film to fit their idea of what was palatable before releasing it.
Apparently they’re showing three of Vigo’s four films in London this week to salute the 100th anniversary of his birth, and both the Times and the Guardian have excellent pieces on the filmmaker and his masterpiece (the version of "L’Atalante" being shown and available on DVD is a modern reconstruction based on whatever evidence Vigo left behind.
On to another great French filmmaker, this one definitely still alive, as evidenced by the inflammatory interview he gives in the Guardian today. We found the experience of reading Jean-Luc Godard‘s comments on life, the universe, and everything, and how they’re all going to shit, infuriating, and not just because of what he’s saying, which can be summed up as this:
There is something paradoxical about his attitude toward cinema. He now seems despairing of the medium’s ability to reinvent itself or to have any kind of social impact. "It’s over," he sighs. "There was a time maybe when cinema could have improved society, but that time was missed."
We haven’t enjoyed any of Godard’s recent work, which we’ve found to reek of didacticism and lack the love of the medium that was his signature. But he’s an undeniable master who, whether he likes it or not, shaped what cinema is today — it’s painful to hear him sound so embittered and defeated.