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Zero de Conduite (1933); Zero for Conduct
Topic Started: Nov 21 2017, 07:00 PM (116 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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Zero de Conduite (1933) Dir. Jean Vigo
Gaumont Films
41 min. / B&W / 1.37:1

Four young men really, really hate their boarding school and its instructors (and we can see why) so they hatch a plan to disrupt the carnival-like proceedings of Commencement Day.

This is a film about anarchy and rebellion more than about plot, which is why it was banned in France until after the war (and long after Vigo was dead). It also requires more than one viewing to "get"; lucky it's so darn short. Written by Vigo and based on his own childhood (although more likely on what he'd wished he'd done at that awful school) and limited to four reels by the financier, which more than likely contributed to the film's choppiness and lack of a real plot, but the images, characters, and many, many bits of "screen business" keep things rollicking along. Our four lads are Tabard (the rather sissy character and the Vigo stand-in), Caussat, Olin, and good ol' Bruel, the ringleader. Our mostly horrid adults include a fat, slimy science teacher; a snoopy superintendent who steals candy and letters from the kids' desks while they're at recess; Ma Beans, the cook and Tabard's mother; the headmaster, whose beard is taller than he is; and the only sympathetic character, Huguet, who falls asleep at odds times, ignores the kids' criminal tendencies, and likes to imitate Chaplin.

Million-dollar Dialog:

Headmaster's advice to young Tabard: "In a word, Bruel is older than you. There's YOUR character: your sensitivity. Then there's his: a neurotic psychopath."

A fun film to watch, weirder than heck but full of delightful little moments. It's on Criterion's Complete Jean Vigo Blu-ray and DVD sets.
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