19/01/2017 19:45.
Cert PG

This film by Jean Vigo, who died of tuberculosis shortly after its completion, was met with poor regard at the time but is now considered a masterpiece. It tells of young captain Jean and his new wife Juliette as they embark upon marriage in the overcrowded barge of the title, chaotically shared with old sea dog Jules and numerous cats. “A bloodless description of Jean Vigo’s ‘L’Atalante’ would indicate a black and white French film, made in 1934, featuring a mundane boy-girl plot, a collection of French songs and a barge. But similar scrutiny would define a pearl as a layered piece of grit.” Desson Howe, The Washington Post. (Cert PG)
Dir: Jean Vigo 89mins France 1934

Introduced by Dr Ann Miller, formerly of the Department of Modern Languages, Leicester University.

Programme Notes

With L’Atalante, Jean Vigo (1905 -1934) had made his only full length feature film (he died not long after its release from complications following tuberculosis). He previously made three other films, Zéro de Conduite (1933), plundered, or if you prefer, homaged, by Lindsay Anderson in If…. (1968), and two other very interesting short films, A Propos de Nice (1930) and Taris (1931).

L’Atalante is a beguiling, truthful love story about the ups and downs of the marriage between a young man and the country girl (the beautiful Dita Parlo) he brings to live with him on the barge he plies on the Seine with a cranky old seafarer (the great Michel Simon). Inventive, poetic, funny and deeply moving, it’s magnificently photographed by the Russian cameraman Boris Kaufman” Philip French, The Observer

Note: Boris Kaufman later moved to Hollywood and shot many films there, including On The Waterfront (1954) and 12 Angry Men (1957) – his work on Waterfront won him an Oscar.

Jean – Jean Daste
Juliette – Dita Parlo
Pere Jules – Michel Simon
Kid – Louis Lefebvre
Showman – Gilles Margaritis
Juliette’s mother – Fanny Clar
Raspoutine – Raphael Diligent
Company Manager – Maurice Gilles
Director – Jean Vigo
Producer – Jacques Louis-Nounez
Screenplay – Jean Vigo, Albert Riera
Cinematography – Boris Kaufman, Louis Berger, Jean-Paul Alphen
Music – Maurice Jaubert
Editing – Louis Chavance


  • Terrific film! The music used reminded me of Kurt Weill and Berlin of that period
  • Brilliant film. So helpful to have Ann’s introduction, with a very lively interesting discussion afterwards
  • Dr Miller always helps us to extract more enjoyment from these French films
  • Certainly one of the best films of the poetic-realism movement, with memorable characters and stunning cinematography. Ann Miller’s talk was interesting and gave enough scope to appreciate this French classic on a whole other level
  • A lovely, delicate film – it was the cinematography that made it for me
  • Un peu triste mais amusant. L’amour est victorieux?
  • Primitive and improbable but strangely delightful. I did like the music
  • Very interesting but perhaps not quite the masterpiece billed


A:15, B:12, C:1, D:1, E:1 to give 83% from 60% of those present.