ZERO FOR CONDUCT
(director/writer: Jean Vigo; cinematographer: Boris Kaufman; editor: Jean Vigo; music: Maurice Jaubert; cast: Jean Dasté (Supt. Hugnet), Robert le Flon(Supt. Pete-Sec), Louis Lefebvre (Caussat, student), Gérard de Bédarieux(Tabard, student), Delphin (Principal); Runtime: 50; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jean Vigo; Criterion Collection, The; 1933-France-in French with English subtitles)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Jean Vigo (“L’Atalante“) directs this spirited avant-garde satire ripping French boarding schools, like those he attended. It’s surreal and zany anarchistic slapstick, filmed as if Charlie Chaplin was a teacher in the dreaded suburban boys’ boarding school. The French took it seriously and banned it for political reasons until 1945, even though Vigo died eleven years before. The short film depicts the hatred Vigo had for such institutions and their stupid rules for behavior and also depicts the psychological state of the rebellious students. The teachers viewed through the student lenses are a collection of oppressors, fools and hypocrites. It builds to the faculty celebration of Alumni Day, viewed by the students as a day for the stuffed shirts to visit. To counter the visit, the students revolt with a messy pillow fight at night in the dorm, during the day a mock Catholic procession and then all out destruction on the school’s grounds. The funny looking imperious long-bearded dwarf principal (Delphin, committed suicide in 1938) is sneered at by the entire student body and is the butt of their resentment. The film was influential on many modern-day directors that include, Truffaut, Godard and Lindsay Anderson’s If (1968).
REVIEWED ON 3/18/2013 GRADE: B+