Synopsis by Mark Deming
French filmmaker Jean Vigo made only four films prior to his death in 1934 at the age of 29 (only one a full length feature), but all of them are today recognized as landmarks of the European cinema, and Zero For Conduct and L'Atalante are often cited among the greatest films of their time. Vigo: Passion For Life is a dramatic biography that explores his brief life and tumultuous career. Born the son of a famous figure in the French anarchist movement, Jean Vigo (played here by James Frain) suffered from poor health throughout his life; he contracted tuberculosis as a young man, and met his wife Lydu Lozinska (Romane Bohringer) when both were receiving treatment in a sanitarium. Vigo made A propos de Nice in 1929 as an attack on bourgeois French society; the premier led to a riot, the first of many controversies surrounding Vigo's work (Zero For Conduct was completed in 1932, but its anti-authoritarian stance caused it to be banned until 1945). Vigo's fragile health was already beginning to fail him while he was filming L'Atalante; a fall into an icy river while trying to retrieve a camera only added to his ills, and he edited most of the film at home, too sick to leave. However, he was passionate about his art to the end, constantly battling producers and authorities to make films as he chose to make them. He died in 1934, the same year L'Atalante was released.