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Zéro de Conduite

January 12, 2011

Zéro de Conduite (1933)
Director: Jean Vigo
Actors: Gerard de Bedarieux, Luis Lefebvre, Jean Dasté

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Synopsis: Life in a French school.

Review: Frenchman Jean Vigo is a hallowed name in cinematic history. A highly promising director with just two feature films to his name (L’Atalante and Zéro de Conduite), he passed away before his 30th birthday, and was never able to make good on the promise of that early body of work.

Watching Zéro de Conduite, it’s easy to see the talent Vigo had: it’s a school story with myriad tinges of social realism alongside a form of surreal satire. Some of the sequences such as the boys sleeping in one long dorm (much like a hospital ward) and making life hell for the teacher who has to sleep in among them are hilarious, and Vigo’s overall use of film grammar (edits, close-ups and sound) is exemplary. It’s hard to make the case for Zéro de Conduite being groundbreaking – as some critics have – but as an early short feature from the sound era, it’s definitely one of the best. (January 2011)

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