(Naught for Conduct: Little Devils at School)
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Cast | Notes | My Summary | My Review
|Surveillant Huguet||Jean Dasté|
|Surveillant Pète-Sec||Robert le Flon|
|Tabard||Gerard de Bedarieux|
|Surveillant-Général Bec-de-Gaz||du Verron|
|Principal du Collège||Delphin|
|Mme. Emile||Madame Émile|
|Préfet||Louis de Gonzague-Frick|
Written and Directed by Jean Vigo
Sounds of kids yelling and singing over credits.
After the holidays back to school.
Bruel, a young boy, is riding on a train with his head down. He looks around at a man sleeping across from him. He then slings his bag as the train stops, he looks out into the smoke, opens the door and lets Colin, another boy in. They put his stuff up as a man runs over outside with fists raised. Colin does a trick with his hand, then pulls out a toy and flips it up. Bruel pulls out a toy instrument and blows in it. Colin pulls out a balloon. Bruel puts clothes pins of some sort on his put, then they pull out cigars and light them. The first words are "He's dead" referring to the sleeping man across from them who falls off his seat when the train stops. They take their stuff and leave. There are other boys at the station and a man referred to as the old stinker - the housemaster. They talk about the dead guy. A woman talks to the man about bringing someone by in the morning. They still assure the others the man was dead. Then the dead man comes out, he's the new teacher Huget who introduces himself to the older man. The train leaves and the boys all walk away single file into the night.
Later in a dorm room a man says to the housemaster that Rene is absent, is with his parents and goodnight. Then he puts out the light. A wolf howls, then two boys play fight as one man gets undressed behind a curtain, only his silhouette is seen. They boys surround his bed and he says he didn't call them and they can stand there until 11pm. One kid doubles over, he's got to go to the bathroom. They ask if he can go and finally he does. Eventually Caussat, Bruel and Colin are told to go back to bed. A light shines through the ceiling and one boy gets up to follow it, sleepwalking. They say to keep quiet or he'll die.
In the morning a man gets on his chair to put the light on. The housemaster arrives to wake everyone up. He pulls their covers off, but no one gets up. Then a master in a hat enters and walks down the middle and suddenly all the boys stand on their beds. He passes through and they all go back to bed. Then he comes back in and signals the three main boys 'naught for conduct, gated on Sunday.' They get up, heads down. Then we see them putting their dark black coats on. Bruel is late as usual. They are told to hurry along and file out the door, one is asked if he wants a black mark for conduct.
Boys in Conspiracy
The three boys are gated, so they disappear into the attic, one knows where they can get food. In the courtyard they have a paper they are bent over, Huguet comes by, though he's a good guy, they walk away from him. Two guys hide in a bathroom stall and smoke. Huguet grabs a ball they are playing with and throws it back, then he does a Charlie Chaplin impression. The boys ask what about ammunition and draw a skull and crossbones. Inside the master with the hat is inspecting the class and stealing things. Huguet comes out with his stick and prances around, one boy is pulled out of a toilet with his pants down, then they follow Huguet back inside.
The teacher tells them to get to their places. One boy makes a ball disappear, then notices his chocolate has been stolen as the master watches through the window. Bruel wants everyone's glue and pours it on the shelf. One boy walks on his hands and Huguet helps him, then says watch this and walks on his hands. He climbs on the desk standing on his hands, asks for paper and a pen and draws standing on one hand. The hat master comes in, the kids are fighting and climbing all around their desks. Huguet shrugs, they look at his paper and it turns into a cartoon man. The housemaster shows up and Huguet goes to the three boys, rips up their paper and leaves. The housemaster tells them to get their places and for Colin and Bruel to bring up their algebra books, never mind they are gated on Sunday.
Outside the hat master makes the kids line up in their overcoats. The housemaster is told the principal is here, who is a dwarf. He comes over and tells them all to follow. They walk down the street singing a song. They go to a lavish house and the dwarf puts his hat on the mantle. He sits with the housemaster, telling him he wants no trouble on Commemoration Day from the 3 boys. Outside the boys are running and shouting down the road. Music plays and they follow. The principal says Huguet is the most agitating. Outside the kids line up behind Huguet as he follows a woman, they all take their hats off like he does and run after her. The principal explains the enormous moral responsibility over Tabard and Bruel meaning they are acting gay.
At night they all come running back in the rain, the principal asks why Huguet is alone, the boys follow and Tabard and Bruel are together and he is upset, says it's unwholesome, they must be watched.
Later Tabard comes to see the principal, he says he's old enough the be his father and the relationship with Bruel is not good. Tabard goes back to class and Bruel wants him to sit with him. Then Caussat and Colin are called out of class. Outside Bruel says he spends Sunday in the kitchen anyway, so he can spend the day with his tarts.
Sunday, Caussat at his guardian's
He sits in a chair with a blindfold on as a girl waters the flowers next to him and pulls the blindfold off. Then it gets dark.
Colin with Ma Beans, his mum
He sits in the kitchen as a fat woman cooks. Outside Causat and Tabard look in the window at him, he sees them and runs out. They want the chocolate, he's not a traitor and they should let him in on the plot. He doesn't like the beaks either, so he hands over his package of chocolate. Then the housemaster arrives, he checks the pots, she says beans again, it's all they like. Then the kid comes back, says beans again! and throws his ball into the pot, she throws it back.
The boys all sit down to eat, they have to wait until the master claps his hands before they can sit. They then start acting up and throw food all around saying down with Ma beans. It's chaos. The master doesn't stop them as they scream and chant. Then they suddenly stop.
Colin says Tabard has a hiding place, he wants him in. Caussart says it's no use, he's a sissy. Then the boys file in for science class. There is a skeleton hanging from the ceiling they have chase the fat teacher, but he's not falling for it and doesn't like it. He hangs his hat and coat up and puts on an old grimy coat and looks around. He sniffs something, pulls out a cloth and the kids all work. He goes up to Tabard and asks if he's taking notes and pets his hand, he's not interested and pulls away. Then the principal arrives with the masters and says to Tabard under much consideration he is excused from Commemoration Day unless he apologizes in front of all the students, that's the only way it counts. He says to bugger off.
That night they have their pirate flag at their beds. They declare war and will fight back against the old men with garbage from the roofs, the ammo is in the attic. They march out, then come back and have a pillow fight and run all over. On the roof the flag is raised, in the bedroom the pillows start to come apart and feathers fly everywhere. The master comes in and sits down, the housemaster enters and leaves. Then everything slows down and one boy is carried in a chair as the rest march behind them holding sticks with lanterns.
The main boys sneak over to the sleeping master and tie him down to the bed, then lift the bed up and leave him standing there with a lamp in front of him. The rest of the boys are in a pile sleeping on the floor.
The next day in the courtyard during ceremonies the master comes over to the principal to say the boys have barricaded themselves in the attic, it's never happened before. There's nothing he can do, the governor is there and a band is playing, men are doing gymnastics, decorations are set up. Then the kids start hurling garbage down on them from the roof. The kids down below cheer them on. The military men enter the school as the four boys on the roof cheer and take their pirate flag down. On the ground the kids start taking benches out and Huguet cheers them on. The men make it up to the trap door on the roof. The boys sing and dance on the top of the roof and walk the other way. The End.
The only reason I watched the film, in fact the only
reason I know the film even exists is because it was a huge inspiration on
Lindsay Anderson for if….Those
who say it's a remake are mistaken, there is little here that is exactly the
same. This takes place in France, if… in the UK and is modeled after the
school Lindsay went to. What is similar is three boys get into trouble, are
punished, another boy is accused of being too friendly with another boy, a
teacher gets too friendly with a student and they plot their revenge from the
roof of the school.
The film starts on a train, interestingly, the original script of if… started on a train, obviously not a coincidence. Right away it gets a bid muddy. Huguet was in the same car with the two boys, but never mentions who he is. Seeing their uniforms a conversation like, "Hey, I'm going to be teaching at your school" seems in order. Instead they opt for a joke about him being dead.
The three main boys keep getting in trouble and aren't allowed to leave on the weekend. One main difference from if…. is Huguet, the teacher who relates to the kids and stays on their level. In if… I suppose the closest character is the History Master who rides his bike into class. We see bits and pieces of life at school, sleeping, eating, playing, going to class and a field trip that goes nowhere. One very odd scene is when Huguet draws a cartoon that comes alive. While ahead of it's time, it adds nothing to the story. Eventually they have enough and decide to pelt the big shots with garbage from the roof of the school.
My main problem with the film is it's hard to tell who is who. I wasn't always sure which of the three kids was which. Tabard had long hair, so he was the easiest to tell. There were two teachers that seemed like both were referred to as housemaster - the bald on and the one with the hat. The other problem I had was the cohesion of the scenes. Things just started and stopped and were stuck together. Since the director died young, the main cast never acted again and I'm sure most everyone involved is dead, we'll probably never know what the intention was. Was more filmed and was cut or lost because of censorship? Was this the way it was meant to be seen? Why were the kids considered so awful? We don't see them do anything really bad and most of the kids seem to misbehave. All of them take part in the pillow fight, the fight in class and the food fight and no one is disciplined.
Scenes that go nowhere really hurt the flow of the film. Why does the teacher steal from the boys while they are outside? Is he a kleptomaniac, on a power trip or setting the boys up to see if they fight? They have a plan to catch him with glue that isn't explained what they hope to accomplish and is forgotten. What is it they have done that is so bad? It seems like the boys just get in trouble for no reason. Why do they stand around the master's curtain that first night? They didn't do a prank or anything, then get in trouble. None of the boys want to get out of bed the first morning, but the three are singled out for no reason. Why did they only get in trouble in class when everyone was fooling around? I don't know what he was trying to say by having the principal as a dwarf. It seemed he was made up to look like the devil and even makes a menacing face in one scene, but a dwarf wouldn't scare the kids. The scene with Caussat at his guardian's made no sense, was it just to show what he did on the weekend? They scene with the science teacher petting Tabard's hand is just like when Jute gets his nipple twisted. Otherwise that scene is also a mess. The teacher says nothing, but the kids are furiously taking notes. Then the principal arrives and won't let Tabard to the Commemoration unless he apologizes. Apologize for what? Why didn't anyone get in trouble then?
The film is ahead of it's time to show youth rebelling like this in 1933 and was said to be banned for almost 20 years after it came out, so I don't know when it was first shown and what the reaction was. I can see why Lindsay liked it, it appealed to his anarchist spirit. The only problem is that there's not much to like here. It is well filmed, has some cool overhead angels and there are a small number of fun scenes, otherwise otherwise it's more of a curiosity because there isn't enough story to hold your interest.
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