Movie of the Week #7
Taris, roi de l'eau
(Jean Vigo; 1931)
On its face, Taris, roi de l'eau was a short film about French Swimming Champeen Jean Taris . . . not too different in conception from any number of Pathe or Movietone newsreel items . . . but for its brevity if nothing else, Jean Vigo's second creation was possibly his boldest statement. With its repeated employment of purely cinematic devices, its own grace seeming in conflict with the order of that which it documents, the film almost ridicules, rather than celebrates, the physicality of its subject; rendering a perfect before-the-fact antidote to Riefenstahl's fetish opus, Olympiad.
I've often wondered . . . and I fear I'll never know the answer to this . . . whether Busby Berkeley, who made a career of using cinema to transcend the purely physical, had this film at least partly in mind when he created the By a Waterfall sequence of Footlight Parade. Probably not. Like Vigo, he just had an innate understanding of the medium's potential.
What more does any filmmaker really need?