Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Dontcha think that kid inna front looks like a young Shemp Howard?

Hah...thought you were gonna get a Bill Shute burn this Wednesday now, didn't you?!?!? Well, frankly I thought so too but then again I figured hey, if I'm such a maverick and against-the-grain purveyor of hotcha fun 'n games, then why not do something a li'l different'n subsist on whatever Bill, in his infinite wisdom, deems appropriate to send me! Gosh, with all the money I've bankrolled o'er the past year (thanks to all these freebees) maybe I should even go out'n purchase a Dee-Vee-Dee of a film that I've been curious of for quite some time and believe it or not, I was wanting to see this rather short (forty-two minute) feature ever since I saw the still pictured above planted firmly in the pages of Parker Tyler's UNDERGROUND FILM read, esp. since the noted film critic decided to add the title "Pre Happening and Happenings" to that particular page of pix which certainly got the Allen Kaprow inside of me all hot and bothered!

Dunno what to make of these thirties-vintage avant garde films. Some of 'em are rather captivating while others look good in that b&w glossy style yet don't really make you feel like you had an enveloping enough time. They may have a nice visual swivel 'n all, but at times they come off dreary, artsy and keep your mind off the squirrels swinging from the trees as you gaze out the window in utter boredom. ZERO DE CONDUITE is different...sure, it has the same look and feel of other early-thirties mind-twisters from L'AGE D'OR to BLOOD OF A POET and of course ECSTASY, yet it doesn't have that air of the forbidden or the chi-chi which certainly helps. The usual bits of avant surrealism and whimsy are here (such as in the slo' mo' pillowfight and parade scene, not to mention the part where the midget headmaster terrorizes the sissy student) and the interesting camera angles and situations seem to have come straight outta one of my more Ny Quil-induced dreams. And although the film  does show slight signs of precocious artzy fartz ya gotta remember that this was made in 1933 when such techniques were still new 'n fresh as Glade so don't bitch about it the same way you did when you were in high school and you laughed out loud at the fat gal's peace poem that made Rod McKuen look like J. G. Ballard.

Really, how could anyone who hates stodgy authoritarian figures not go for a film like this? Set in a strict boarding school, ZERO follows the travails of three boys who plan a massive revenge campaign (complete with Jolly Roger) against their masters. Yeah, the kids are worthy of some good boot-kicking themselves the way they smoke cigars and generally act so bratsville I woulda whomped the whole lot of 'em, but the climax and the situations leading up to it'll make you side with the brats if only because it's nature's law! Like when I was a kid and I used to see other kids get hauled over by their parents and I believed that it was the rule that kids hadda stick together. Kids and dogs, that is.  And when you see what the students have in store for the faculty on open house day you too will wish you were among them wreaking havoc and not caring one bit what kinda lickin' yer gonna get when ya get home!

Dunno how director Jean Vigo woulda made out had he lived on 'stead of dyin' the way he did right after finishing his only feature L'ATALANTE a year later, but I get the feeling that he probably would have turned out to be one of those snooty film snob faves that couldn't direct a Bowery Boys film even if he tried. But at least the guy  made this tribute to childhood anarchy which does make me feel good, yet it also makes me feel so guilty that I never had the drive or intelligence to pull off the same havoc that came natural to these kids. And who knows, maybe you will feel the same way too.

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