Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 29, 2015

Before Criterion released that complete Jean Vigo disk, I’ll bet most of us didn’t know that he’d made an educational/promotional documentary too. Vigo is properly vaunted as one of film’s supreme firebrand-anarchists. That’s mostly in À propos de Nice and Zéro de conduite. He was also one of film’s supreme sensualists—that would be the luminous L’Atalante, and this comparative obscurity as well. But fear not! Or, relax. The sensuality, perhaps sensuousness of this charming bagatelle about a French swimming champion, and the art and craft of swimming itself, reminds us how these things also have much to do with the miraculous movements of the body, their sometimes, unexpected strangeness, and their plain and joyful beauty. Sex, or not (or not exactly). So much good in it!

In addition Vigo has a couple of cinematic tricks up his sleeve. They’re intended to surprise and delight us (though he may not have been as invested in the impulse to instruct). Even here, though, he is still really talking about beauty. Here it’s the medium of film that’s on display, and that’s being presented for our admiration. Though they’re roughly contemporaries, Vigo has never struck me, or anyone probably, as having much in common with Dziga Vertov. Their cameras sure transform though, don’t they? Let’s be honest here; Taris is a decidedly minor work. To his very great credit though, Vigo appears to have put his all into it. And he had a lot of all to add. That may make it major after all.