90 Movies in 90 Days: Zero for Conduct (1933)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Zero for Conduct
Release Date: 7 April 1933
Director: Jean Vigo
Production Company: Argui-Films

Zero for Conduct is the third of four films Jean Vigo created before his early death at the age of 29 (His last film is his masterpiece L’Atalante). Vigo’s style is ahead of his time foreshadowing the neorealism and French New Wave movements of decades later.  Indeed, every review I can find of this film notes that it influenced François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows.

This short film tells the very basic story of a boy’s boarding school and the four mischievous boys who rebel against arbitrary authority and eventually take over the school.  Although there seem to be some teachers who ignore and even condone there misbehavior, I was never quite sure who all the adult characters were supposed to be.  This film was made in the earliest days of sound so some of the best sequences are ones without dialogue such as two friends sharing their latest toys on a train or the glorious pillow fight near the end of the film.

Zero for Conduct feels unique in showing the ordinary life of children and has some innovative effects.  Storywise, there wasn’t much going, and as noted above it felt a bit muddled about who people were and what was happening.  Still, I’m glad I got to watch this as a piece of film history even if it’s not something I’d return to for pleasure.

Rating: ***