From the Chicago Reader, March 29, 1991. It’s a strange and very sad coincidence that I scheduled a reposting of this essay today long before I learned of the death of Luce Vigo on Facebook. —J.R.
Directed by Jean Vigo
Written by Vigo, Albert Riera, and Jean Guinee
With Michel Simon, Dita Parlo, Jean Dasté, Gilles Margaritis, and Louis Lefevre.
“What was Vigo’s secret? Probably he lived more intensely than most of us. Filmmaking is awkward because of the disjointed nature of the work. You shoot five to fifteen seconds and then stop for an hour. On the film set there is seldom the opportunity for the concentrated intensity a writer like Henry Miller might have enjoyed at his desk. By the time he had written twenty pages, a kind of fever possessed him, carried him away; it could be tremendous, even sublime. Vigo seems to have worked continuously in this state of trance, without ever losing his clearheadedness.” — François Truffaut, 1970
L’Atalante is one of the supreme achievements in the history of cinema, and its recent restoration, playing this week at the Music Box, offers what is surely the best version any of us is ever likely to see.… Read more »
From Sight and Sound (Summer 1985). This is a revised and expanded version of a lecture given at the Rotterdam International Film Festival’s Market in early 1985, the second year I attended the festival. Some of it’s obviously very dated now (hopefully in a way that’s historically instructive) and some of it anticipates a few of the arguments made in my book Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See 15 years later. The late Huub Bals, director and presiding spirit of the Rotterdam festival, asked me to give this talk, and, as I recall, it was well attended; if memory serves, the audience members included, among others, Eszter Balint (the female lead in Stranger Than Paradise), Bernardo Bertolucci, Sara Driver, Jim Jarmusch, and Rudy Wurlitzer. –- J.R.
A feeling of having no choice is becoming more and more widespread in American life, and particularly among successful people, who are supposedly free beings. On a concrete plane, the lack of choice is often a depressing reality. In national election years, you are free to choose between Johnson and Goldwater or Johnson and Romney or Reagan, which is the same as choosing between a Chevrolet and a Ford — there is a marginal difference in styling.… Read more »