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L' Atalante


Price: CDN$ 143.17
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Amazon.com: 27 reviews
56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
A word about the DVD July 31 2004
By Tryavna - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Earlier reviewers have complained about this DVD's quality, and I want to clear up the confusion. The way that New Yorker Films (not connected to The New Yorker magazine) has packaged this DVD is outstanding. They've specialized in more recent (i.e., post-1970) foreign films, so if this is what they can do with older films, I'd love to see them work on others. It's not quite Criterion-level quality, but considering the challenges, it's as impressive as many of Criterion's major accomplishments.

For a movie that was all but lost to us, they've has done wonders with the restoration. The aspect ratio is accurate, contrary to what one reviewer says below. Since L'Atalante was made before 1953, it CAN'T be shown in letterbox! Unfortunately, there's slight cropping at the left and top throughout the film, and it's especially notable during the opening titles. French directors of the 1930s regularly had their action overflow the frame, so it's difficult to say how much this cropping affects the rest of the film. There's also slight debris on the print, but that's unavoidable for a film of this age and history. There is also some confusion on the film's running time. The advertised 89 minutes only applies to VHS tapes. The actually film runs about 85 minutes, including the opening and closing titles. However, critics believe that this version (based on an early 1934 print and supplemented with better-quality outtakes) is as close to Vigo's intended vision as we'll ever get. He died before he could oversee a "final cut."

The extras are slim, but worthwhile. There's a filmography for Vigo and 2 galleries (one of posters and one of stills and behind-the-scene photos). Best of all is a short documentary about L'Atalante. It's called "The Making of..." but it's more of an appreciation than a history. It's a nice addition, but should be watched AFTER you see the movie. I'd have liked more detail on the restoration process, but what's here is fine.

If you like French films of the '30s (especially those of Renoir and Carne), then this DVD is a must-own. Anyone else who considers him/herself a student of cinema needs at least to rent it. Either way, rest assured that this is a fine transfer. My only reservation concerns the very slight cropping of the frame.

EDIT: Since I reviewed this DVD, Artificial Eye (a British video company) has released an excellent two-disc set called The Complete Jean Vigo, which includes this film and Vigo's four short films (including the amazing "Zero for Conduct"). Featuring 3 hours of extra content, it's well worth looking into if you have multiregional capability. The Complete Jean Vigo is only available in region 2 format.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Most romantic movie ever made March 10 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Most of the well written reviews here talk knowledgeably about film matters about which I know nothing. What I do know is that this film is simply one of the most achingly beautiful, romantic movies I have ever seen. My husband and I first saw it 30 years ago, when we were dating. The quality was bad, obviously prerestoration, but we still just fell in love with the movie. There is a scene (and the other reviewers have spelled out the basic plot: village girl marries barge captain, they argue, separate, meet again) where the young man, missing his wife, swims under water and sees a fantasy of her -- well, that was so touching. And, yes, the scene where the couple thinks of one another is one of the most magical, love filled scenes in movie history. I have to comment, too, on the lovely quality of light in this film. [One odd point, has anyone else noticed how much the vaudeville entertainer, who flirts with Juliette, looks like Jim Carrey? We thought it just spooky since the movie was made 70 years ago!] So, this is a great valentine's day movie, for romance, or any day movie if you just love really welldone movies. We recently purchased the restored copy on DVD and were very pleased. The only thing I can think would improve it would be more extras.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Top ten and one of a kind. March 20 2003
By Heavy Theta - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The restoration and theatrical re-release of L'Atalante a decade ago was nothing less than a cinematic event. The movie had been edited to shreds shortly after it's doomed director, Jean Vigo, had presented his original work to an apparently incenced Parisian audience. Just as with Rites of Spring, the Golden Age and Coltrane/Dolphy, the emnity that the work generated from the French audience was strong evidence to the quality and importance of this brilliant piece of avant garde.
The movie has been described as a combination of both surrealism and realism, but in truth Vigo's vision is entirely unique, and the style died with him. The emotional mood is practically labile and often ironic, such as the funeral-like reactions of onlookers to the wedding of the young couple, that opens the story. There are gentley jarring moments scattered about; the images of the later estranged lovers, shots of the two hugging themselves, imagining the other, combined to present a haunting view of romance defies description (obviously) and are unforgettable.
More captivating than the two young leads is Michedl Simon as the first mate. His comedy touches can only be called sublime. The scene when the bride comes to visit his cabin and witness all his wondrous bounty of mechanical diversion is truely one of film's great gems.
The (restored) VHS version of this has remained prohibitively priced. There is no more important film that has waited for it's DVD release. If you haven't had the chance to see it yet, you're in luck.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Sweet, sad, and beautiful Jan. 31 2005
By Joseph Erikson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Juliette, a woman in small-town France marries Jean, a barge captain. Within minutes, the newlywed couple start their life together on the barge L'Atlante, where the characters develop and the plot forms. Among the characters is Papa Jules, who is a charming, tattooed old roughneck with an affinity for cats (which are everywhere) who shares stories and tricks with Juliette, and earns the scorn of the jealous and uptight Jean. Docking in Paris, Juliette (played by Dita Parlo, one of the most adorable women ever to grace celluloid), a naieve country girl, is seduced by the culture and charm of the city, and her husband, an uptight bundle of insecurity, just cannot deal with her innocent flirtations. He abandons her, and the emotions start pouring out. The rest cannot be explained in words, you'll just have to see how it works out, as the narrative of the film is incredibly visual.

The cinematography is among the best you'll ever see in your life. Also contains one of the most erotic scenes ever put to film, though no sex is featured. May move you to tears. Essential viewing for film lovers.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Simply Perfect March 19 2004
By Ben Parker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Finally saw Vigo's L'Atalante, his only feature film, which he reportedly died before completing, and instantly its one of my top favourite movies and easily one of the best pictures ever made. L'Atalante has everything going for it: its sexy, romantic and incredibly funny. Its also immensely genuine - the performances are so good, you are completely drawn into the action. Which is not to say that L'Atalante isn't imbued with the sense of fun and visual fantasy which makes Vigo's Zero de Conduite so great, in fact, its much more developed here. Vigo gets to tell a complete story in L'Atalante, the only complete story he ever told, and it is wonderful. Aside from its great story and vivid, unique characters, the most remarkable thing about L'Atalante is the masterful way it is directed. Vigo had such an eye for what was cinematic - so much of his stuff is communicated through images, yet when he uses words he uses them well (and for comic purposes here). L'Atalante is simply a beautiful film to look at. It has so many beautifully filmed sequences and images (some favourites: the grammophone music scene, the street seller's scene, the swimming underwater scene, the drunk scene). Surely one of the best shot films ever. Watch where Vigo places his camera, and the multitude of exciting compositions here. L'Atalante is a movie buff's dream come true. I'm so glad i found it, and am eternally grateful to the art gallery for giving me the opportunity to see it. The audience i saw it with had a rollicking good time - we enjoyed it immensely. If you ever see it playing at a revival house, or at an art gallery, i thoroughly recommend you go there and discover Jean Vigo.
A perfect 10/10 - the only one i've ever given.


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