Seldom has a young couple's lust for each other been so convincingly conveyed by purely cinematic means: Apart, husband Jean Daste and wife Dita Parlo still thrash in their separate beds together, their erotic link intact thanks to Vigo's inspired editing. The young officer's overpowering memories of his wife in The Thin Red Line offer a recent example of the same filmic impulse -- Terrence Malick is one working director in line with the lyrical tradition Vigo exemplified, together with filmmakers as otherwise disparate as F.W. Murnau, Frank Borzage, and the Soviet Georgian Sergei Paradjanov. Jean Vigo is the patron saint of struggling, truly independent filmmakers everywhere, and L'Atalante is a beacon for weary movie viewers caught in the undertow of formulaic banality.
-- Gregg Rickman
L'Atalante screens Sunday through Saturday, April 4-10, at 9:20 p.m. (also Saturday and Sunday at 5:30 p.m.) at the Fine Arts Cinema, 2451 Shattuck (at Haste), Berkeley. Admission is $7; call (510) 848-1143.