★★★★☆ France. 41m. Drama. Directed by Jean Vigo. Written by Jean Vigo. Cinematography by Boris Kaufman. Edited by Jean Vigo. Music by Maurice Jaubert. Starring Gérard de Bédarieux, Louis Lefebvre, Gilbert Pruchon, Coco Golstein, Jean Dasté, Robert le Flon.
Zero for Conduct (French: Zéro de conduite) is a 1933 French featurette, first shown on 7 April 1933 and subsequently banned in France until November 1945.
The film draws extensively on Vigo’s boarding school experiences to depict a repressive and bureaucratised educational establishment in which surreal acts of rebellion occur, reflecting Vigo’s anarchist view of childhood. The title refers to a mark the boys would get which prevented them from going out on Sundays.
Though the film was not an immediate success with audiences, it has proven to be enduringly influential. François Truffaut paid homage to Zero for Conduct in his film The 400 Blows (1959). The anarchic classroom and recess scenes in Truffaut’s film borrow from Vigo’s film, as does a classic scene in which a mischievous group of schoolboys are led through the streets by one of their schoolmasters. Director Lindsay Anderson has acknowledged that his own film if…. was inspired by Zero for Conduct.