AKA Zéro de conduite: Jeunes diables au collège; Zero for Conduct
DIRECTED BY: Jean Vigo
FEATURING: Delphin, Jean Dasté, Louis Lefebvre, Gilbert Pruchon, Coco Golstein,Gérard de Bédarieux
PLOT: Schoolboys stage a revolt at a French boarding school.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Zéro de conduite is an important historical film. It founded the boarding school subgenre, creating a template used by Francois Truffaut (The 400 Blows) and more weirdly by Lindsay Anderson (If…) With its dwarf headmaster, disappearing balls and drawings that come to life, the film is as playful and experimental as a mock rebellion staged by schoolboys before Sunday dinner. Its mildly surreal oddness nudges the needle on the weirdometer, but, despite its near-legendary status, it’s not thoroughly strange enough to make its way onto the List on the first ballot.
COMMENTS: Jean Vigo’s extraordinary backstory is almost as fascinating as his films. The son of an anarchist who died in prison, the auteur left a tiny (about three hours’ worth of film) but extremely impressive body of work before succumbing to tuberculosis, the age-old nemesis of romantic poets, at the age of 29. Adding to his mythological stature is the possibility that he may have contributed to his own demise by laboring on his final film up until his last moments, instead of getting much needed bed rest; he may have actually worked himself to death, literally giving his life for his art.
By banning Zéro de conduite, the director’s film about an imaginary rebellion in a boys’ boarding school, for thirteen years, the French censors only augmented Vigo’s legend. From the perspective of patrons who are used to seeing political leaders openly mocked and clitorises graphically snipped off in movie theaters as they munch on popcorn, the idea of a movie with only a single “merde!’ and no violence, fetal rape, human centipedes, or even an obvious political target would be banned for over a decade is almost unimaginable. The film contains hardly audible whispers of schoolboy homosexuality, but it was suppressed not for these but for its “anti-French spirit” and “praise of indiscipline.” Vigo’s anarchic, anti-authoritarian philosophy, which pervades the film’s 44 minute running time, was too hot and subversive for 1933 sensibilities.
Today, of course, the movie is notably tame. In fact, if you’ve been exposed to any of the Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: ZERO DE CONDUITE (1933)