There are films you like, there are films you love, and on rare occasions you see a film that is a revelation. That is how I felt when I first saw Jean Vigo's 1934 film L'ATALANTE. That film genuinely expanded the possiblities of what the cinema could achieve as art. It has inspired many film makers, among them Julien Temple. VIGO : PASSION FOR LIFE is Temple's tribute to Vigo. There is good news and bad. Did I like it? Yes. Does it really succeed? Sadly, not.
Why did I like it then? Well, I enjoyed it on the level of any biopic about somebody I admire; even more so because it sticks pretty much to the facts - and it's certainly more entertaining than the Johnny Cash biopic, I WALK THE LINE. So where does it go wrong? The film is constructed with cliched scene after cliched scene - it is film making by the numbers and while it does inform you about Jean Vigo's short life (he died of tuberculosis aged just 29) it coveys little of what made him such an important figure in cinema. Temple took on a daunting task and more power to him for making the film but if you want to understand Vigo's passion for film as well as his passion for life perhaps it should be compulsory to watch his films before watching Temple's - not a daunting task as it is possible to watch his entire output in about three hours.
I watched VIGO : PASSION FOR LIFE with a friend who is a professional film maker and has actually worked with Julien Temple and who was, incidentally, the person who first screened L'ATALANTE for me. He absolutely hated the film and at one point was going to text Temple and ask him what went wrong! While I took on board my friend's criticisms as being in many ways justified, I remain entertained and in many instances genuinely moved by it. Rating ***