Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

L'Atalante (1934)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

L'Atalante (1934, Fr.)

In director Jean Vigo's only full-length feature film (and his last film before his death in 1934 at the age of 29) - a poetically-told, lyrical, sensual, visually-rich, sometimes playful drama, and a down-to-earth, simple story about a newly-married couple struggling with and adjusting to their wedded relationship:

  • the two honeymooners in a recent marriage and living temporarily on the dingy river barge the L'Atalante: the over-controlling barge captain Jean (Jean Dasté), and the lovely Juliette (Dita Parlo) - an innocent, cheerful, free-spirited small-town French peasant girl
  • the lovely, playful scene of a curious Juliette's visit to the cabin of her husband's entertaining, tattooed crew mate Père Jules (Michel Simon) who owned numerous stray cats - where she was shown many of his gadgets, trinkets, treasures and inventions, including a giant seashell, wind-up music boxes, a Japanese hand-fan, a dead friend's hand kept in a jar, and a marionette conductor - transporting her to different exotic worlds
  • the temporary separation of the newlywed lovers against stubborn Jean's wishes, going their separate ways when the bored, capricious and melancholic Juliette went off to window shop and to see Parisian nightlife, while Jean remained on the barge - and then cast off without her, literally deserting her on shore
  • the heralded sequence of broken-hearted, sad and depressed Jean attempting to acquire a vision of Juliette (according to a folk tale), by diving overboard into the Seine River's water during a dreamlike visual interlude underwater; he had a fanciful, unobtainable vision of his smiling wife Juliette in her white bridal gown underwater (in a super-imposed image)
Love Scene Montage of The Two Lovers
in Separate Locations
  • and the exquisite and erotic love scene (filmed in a paralleling montage with intercutting and super-imposed images) of the lonely husband and wife restlessly tossing and turning sleeplessly on separate beds (on the barge, and in a seedy Parisian hotel) - each was thinking of, desiring and nakedly longing for the other (signaled by self-caressing and fondling); while he arched his back and stiffly sat up on his bed, she placed her hand under her nightshirt to touch her breast; the sequence of erotic desire within their fantasy imaginations was heightened by the editing - that matched up or mirrored their movements to make them appear together and realistically reacting to each other

Newlyweds Jean and Juliette

Juliette with Crew Mate Pere Jules

Jean's Overboard Swim in the Seine - and His Vision of Juliette


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