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Jean Vigo

February 16

Although he made only four films, Jean Vigo’s (1905 – 1934) career had a profound effect on the history of art cinema, and Vigo himself is a treasured figure, due in part to his short and difficult life. His interest in cinema developed from his work in a photography studio and stints as an assistant cinematographer. Combining surrealist motifs with poetic sequences and mixing cinema verité with metaphor, Vigo’s film treatments are also infused with a sense of social justice, ultimately leading to problems with censors followed by numerous small edits to his work. As a child he led a chaotic life. His family, from the Basque Pyrenees, had little money and moved around frequently. His father, who assumed the name Miguel Almereyda, was a liberal journalist and anarchist who was allegedly murdered in prison while still a young man. The consequence of all this misfortune was that Jean suffered poor health from an early age and finally died at age twenty-nine, three weeks after the Paris premiere of his now beloved L’Atalante. Jean Vigo’s work has recently been restored and rereleased.

still from L'Atalante
courtesy Cine Classics/Photofest

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