Nobody, it can be said, has had as great an impact and influence on cinema history with as little film—less than three hours, all told—than Jean Vigo, demi-surréaliste, anarchist’s son, and Keats-like consumptive martyr. At BAM, the movies bearing Vigo’s footprint mostly reflect Zero for Conduct (1933), an impetuous schoolyard revolution that was virtually remade, albeit with tommy guns, as Lindsay Anderson’s If . . . (1968), the still-underrated capstone to the British New Wave. But the imprint is also detected on Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass (1961)—shot by Vigo DP Boris Kaufman, brother of Dziga Vertov—and Bernardo Bertolucci’s Godardian-Marxist ode Before the Revolution (1964). Individualizing Vigo’s more generalized juvenile insurrection, Fran Truffaut’s
The 400 Blows (1959) seems a natural choice, but Ken Loach’s Truffaut-esque Kes (1969) is, relatively speaking, out of left field. (Where’s Heathers?) But that’s fine: Being a Vigoienne, I’d give
Zero‘s precious 41-minute rebel yell credit for molding most of 20th-century culture’s genuine triumphs.
Frederick Wiseman’s High School (1968) is a chilling answer to Vigo’s utopian fantasia, but then, Columbia Revolt (1968), a collectively made, hour-long document of the 1968 student uprising, could be said to answer Wiseman, with appropriate élan and fury. L’Atalante (1934) may be Vigo’s greatest work, but its dreamy ambivalence has been less iconic; here, Leos Carax’s Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991) thieves from Vigo’s riverboat odyssey, and Another Girl, Another Planet (1992), by indie idiosyncrat Michael Almereyda (who shares Vigo’s real surname), transposes Vigo’s romantic anti-romanticism to the East Village by way of a Fisher-Price Pixelvision camera.