Jean Vigo, The Seen and Unseen

The brief life of Jean Vigo (1905-1934) seethed with creativity and drama; his few but exciting […] Read more

The brief life of Jean Vigo (1905-1934) seethed with creativity and drama; his few but exciting films have been rediscovered and revered from generation to generation. Bringing to French cinema a search for realism and a poetic eye, his works, even fragmented, became touchstones for the New Wave – hence, the nickname “Saint Jean Vigo, patron of cine-clubs.”

Vigo’s father, the Catalan anarchist turned socialist Eugene Bonaventura de Vigo, raised Jean amidst chaos even before his mysterious death in prison in 1917. Subsequently, Jean was sent to a boarding school under a pseudonym, only retaking his father’s name as an adult at the Sorbonne. In 1926, he met his wife at a sanatorium for tuberculosis, a disease that ultimately killed him at age 29 in 1934. He left behind a daughter, critic Luce Vigo.

Vigo’s filmmaking was a call to “social realism.” Indeed, he scorned films where “a pair of lips take 3,000 meters to meet and just as long to come apart.” Not unsurprisingly, his career began with documentaries: his first short exposed the social divisions of the French resort city of Nice; a second focused on French swimming champion Jean Taris. While brief, these films show Vigo’s preoccupations with both real life and creative filmmaking, shaped in conjunction with cinematographer Boris Kaufman. The tension of enclosure and freedom and the creativity of the camera and soundscape permeate later works as well, augmented by growing an insightful characterization rather than impersonal subjects.

Ironically, Vigo’s masterworks were scarcely visible in his lifetime. His acerbic autobiographical examination of life in a boarding school (Zéro de Conduite , 1933) was censored and withheld until 1945. L’Atalante (1934) faced commercial problems with its languorous flow and bittersweet narrative. It was only released in a butchered version, renamed Le Chaland qui passe (The Passing Barge), which played briefly in theaters. Both films, however, were rediscovered in the 1940s and now have been restored and reconstructed lovingly, a process that the “rushes and outtakes” documentaries allow us to experience firsthand.

Further Readings:

Jean Vigo, The Seen and Unseen, From The Complete Jean Vigo Blu-ray Collector’s Set by The Criterion Collection
À propos de Nice, From The Complete Jean Vigo Blu-ray Collector’s Set by The Criterion Collection
À propos de Nice/ Taris: Champion de France/ Zéro de Conduite, From Il Cinema Ritrovato 2017 Festival catalogue
Zéro de Conduite, From The Complete Jean Vigo Blu-ray Collector’s Set by The Criterion Collection
L’Atalante, From The Complete Jean Vigo Blu-ray Collector’s Set by The Criterion Collection

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The Labyrinth of Mystery – Jacques Rivette

The Future of the Past: Who Makes History?

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Winston Churchill made his […] Read more

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Winston Churchill made his now famous speech at an event that many have seen as the symbolic inauguration of the Cold War. Precisely, it asserts that the historical narratives are always shaped by the might of political and cultural leaders on the winning side of history. Many historical events, such as the Nanking Massacre, the Jeju Uprising and the February 28 Incident, are often dealt with in abridged or distorted form in the official historical discourse. While those in authority may have the power to manipulate the history to attain their present-day goals, there is an alternative narrative beyond political exploitation – a “public history” through movies.

While those in authority may have the power to manipulate the history to attain their present-day goals, there is an alternative narrative beyond political exploitation – a “public history” through movies. Film is a powerful art form that can present a genuine reflection of people’s views and sentiments toward history, giving a voice to the individuals who take part in the events, and influencing the way people think about the past. Film is also an important mechanism reminding us that history is not monolithic, that there are always strong contingents in opposition to dominant ideologies. In collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, Cine Fan brings to you “The Future of the Past: Who Makes History?” curated by film scholars from Germany and the presenters in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. The selected films, in reproducing the vernacular memory in the everyday lives of ordinary people, reflect the truth of the past. These stories, of a Korean student soldier fighting for the Japanese army; of a group of Hong Kong idealists advocating for socio-political reforms; or of a Japanese young man living under the oppression of imperialism, all evoke a critical collective memory of the past, expanding the opportunity to contemplate the role of ordinary individuals in history. History is not only about the past, but also about the present. Films, with the unparalleled cinematic representation of the public history, bring history to life for everyone, inspiring us to preserve the

In collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, Cine Fan brings to you “The Future of the Past: Who Makes History?” curated by film scholars from Germany and the presenters in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. The selected films, in reproducing the vernacular memory in the everyday lives of ordinary people, reflect the truth of the past. These stories, of a Korean student soldier fighting for the Japanese army; of a group of Hong Kong idealists advocating for socio-political reforms; or of a Japanese young man living under the oppression of imperialism, all evoke a critical collective memory of the past, expanding the opportunity to contemplate the role of ordinary individuals in history. History is not only about the past, but also about the present. Films, with the unparalleled cinematic representation of the public history, bring history to life for everyone, inspiring us to preserve the

History is not only about the past, but also about the present. Films, with the unparalleled cinematic representation of the public history, bring history to life for everyone, inspiring us to preserve the past, and embrace the future.

Co-presented by

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Hara Setsuko Forever, Part II

Two years after Hara Setsuko (1920-2015) passed away, the world still forgets not her luminous smiles […] Read more

Two years after Hara Setsuko (1920-2015) passed away, the world still forgets not her luminous smiles – smiles radiating out of genuine love, smiles attempting to hide sadness, and smiles that remind us of the golden era of post-war Japanese cinema.

Japan’s best-loved actress, Hara embodies the virtues of the traditional Japanese woman: loyal, composed, bearing an aura of mesmerizing grandeur. Renowned for her collaborations with Ozu Yasujiro, she is a dutiful daughter reluctant to leave her widowed father in Late Spring (1949); a devoted widow taking care of her ageing parentsin- law in Tokyo Story (1953); and a mother sacrificing for her daughter’s happiness in Late Autumn (1960). In the sublime tranquility of Ozu’s films, she represented the ideal form of female. Revered novelist Endo Shusaku once wrote of her: “We would sigh or let out a great breath from the depths of our hearts, for what we felt was precisely this: Can it be possible that there is such a woman in this world?”

Beyond her di v ine beauty and charm, her inner depth and strength had also manifested themselves. Renowned directors such as Kurosawa Akira, Kinoshita Keisuke and Imai Tadashi, each recognized different qualities in her. In The Ball at the Anjo House (1947), she established herself as the archetype of the post-war “new” woman – intelligent, independent, looking forward to a bright future. As a wife under Naruse Mikio’s camera, she showed quiet resistance against the greater world, refusing submission to an uncommitted husband, or allowing herself to take pleasure in the company of her young suitor.

Called the Garbo of Japan, Hara shared the exquisite beauty and mysterious spiritual quality. She completely disengaged herself from the film industry at her peak after finishing her final film Chushingura in 1962, and led a secluded life in Kamakura, never got married.

In one of her admired performances, someone asked her, “Isn’t life disappointing?”, she replied, “Yes, it is,” and smiled at the camera. It is this smile, enigmatic and compassionate, that gives us the strength to go on with our lives.

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Conquer Film!

The changes of revolutionary Russia in 1917 found hungry resonance in post-war Germany, a nation defeated, […] Read more

The changes of revolutionary Russia in 1917 found hungry resonance in post-war Germany, a nation defeated, divided and bereft of power and dreams. The November Revolution of 1918 that dethroned the Kaiser erupted into warfare among the Socialists themselves, climaxing in the failed Sparticist uprising in January, the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and the triumph of the Social Democrats. The Weimar Republic, born in blood and division, survived thirteen years of vehement political conflicts, hyperinflation, and humiliation by the Allied victors of World War I. Yet, this time of economic chaos and social inequality also witnessed a florescence of German literature, architecture (the Bauhaus), philosophy and film that would be crushed in the 1930s with the rise of the Third Reich and the exile of many artists. While we know many great film directors of the period – Murnau, Lubitsch, Pabst, von Sternberg, Lang – this selection focuses on the socio-political currents themselves and the films that sometimes brought even artists like George Grosz and Bertolt Brecht into the mass media politics of crisis.

Unlike the celebrations that underpinned so many Soviet depictions of the post-revolutionary scene, these German films were weapons in ongoing struggles, where ideologies are expressed by powerful stories that become parables of suffering and redemption. While the leftist visions of the earlier films give way, in the end, to the chilling path toward Hitler and Nazism, it is striking to see the same elements across so many films: the suffering of the urban working class (including the early history of this proletariat in Zelnik’s The Weavers ), the crushing burdens faced by men and women who saw no future before them, and the children who figured as symbols of despair rather than hope. Resolutions, similarly, come through a mixture of ideological arguments – Brecht penned Kuhle Wampe’s debate over markets – and the fanfare of mass events such as camps, rallies, and protests, where the tragedies of the individual could be lost in the action and hope of the many.

Co-presented by

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Edward Yang , 1 0 -year Commemoration