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.