Short Film Saturday: Zéro de conduite (1933)

Jean Vigo is perhaps the most proportionally influential filmmaker of all-time based on his small body of work. His penultimate film, of only four, was the following short.

An essay on Criterion about it states a few things well right at the outset:

French sociologist Roger Caillois proposed that every form of human recreation could be placed somewhere on a continuum between two terms: ludus and paidia. The first of these represents games defined almost wholly by their rule systems. Crossword puzzles and chess might lie near the ludic extreme. Paidia, by contrast, is sheer tumult, a realm of spontaneous roles and invention and a ceaseless overturning of bodies. If one were to assign an emblematic sound to paidia, it could only be that which opens Zéro de conduite (1933): the screams of kids at recess, a mass of voices expressing nothing beyond the creative energies of play in and for itself.

As Kite goes on to discuss some of the design and the kismet behind this film’s design one can see by choice and chance a precursor to the Nouvelle Vague due to some of the naturalistic filmmaking choices. The not immediately tangible plot, a challenge to conventional structure and the rebellious, dangerous nature of the tale itself all play into that. By AMPAS standards this film is actually a feature, but few titles ever fit into this mid-range and being about half as long as most features I think it applies as a short and is fairly important one.

To view this film please visit this link.

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