“War is declared! Down with teachers! Up with revolution!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
At only 41 minutes long, Zero de Conduite is more a series of loosely cohesive vignettes than a traditional narrative. Vigo’s primary concern is with establishing a specific milieu — a seedy boarding school somewhere in France, where fat old teachers feel free to fondle pretty young boys, the headmaster is a tyrannical midget, his assistant steals food from the boys, and the chef cooks beans for dinner night after night. As the “story” progresses, it heads in an increasingly surreal direction — but unlike Bunuel’s L’Age d’Or (1930), for instance, Vigo’s screenplay only gradually reveals its fantastical turn, in a few delightfully select moments (a teacher’s drawing comes to animated life; the boys are somehow able to completely upturn a teacher’s bed while he’s sleeping). As with his only feature-length film, L’Atalante (1934), Vigo collaborated with cinematographer Boris Kaufman and composer Maurice Jaubert to create a number of provocative images and sequences — including the infamous “feather pillow fight” (watch for a surprising bit of frontal nudity as the boys progress in a slow motion parade afterward — Vigo was fearless), and the liberating finale.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)