Wednesday, January 7, 2015

On Film, Humor and Freedom of Expression: "Zéro de Conduite" (1933); An Original Memo by Payman Akhalghi (2015)

Memo on Cinema: "Zéro de Conduite"
(Zero for Conduct, French, 1933)
On Film, Humor and Freedom of Expression
By Payman Akhalghi (Draft 1)

(*) First published at on January 7th, 2015, under Memo on Cinema: "Zéro de Conduite" (French, 1933).

Hannah Arendt said it best that, the surest way to undermine authority was laughter,[1] -- and who would know that better than the tyrant himself?

Thanks to Claudia Gorbman [2], I learned of a short 1933 French film, which I managed to see a few nights ago. Briefly put, "Zero for Conduct", directed by Jean Vigo, with music by Maurice Jaubert, is about a boarding school, its strict discipline, and the young students' growing defiance of it. It's a succinct and deeply poetic study of the impact of power and our natural desire for freedom that was made right between the two world wars. It's a microcosm of some larger social processes -- strict environments, rebellion, anarchy, tolerance, change -- and yet, in its method, and in its totality, about the joys of life, sympathy, and the power of humor. At the end, it's about childhood, and about the children in all of us. It's a delicious gem of the early cinema, a small film about the big picture.

The film was focused on extensively for its music by Ms. Gorbman in her book. I share it however for both the film, and the music.

(Zero for Conduct: Little Devils at School)
(French, 1933, ca. 41 mins)
Directed by Jean Vigo; Music by Maurice Jaubert 

[1] "To remain in authority requires respect for the person or the office. The greatest enemy of authority, therefore, is contempt, and the surest way to undermine it is laughter." -- Hannah Arendt, "On Violence", 1969.

[2] "Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music", Claudia Gorbman, 1987. I specially thank Prof. Robert Fink of UCLA for introducing me to the book, which further informed my doctorate studies. [Currently ABD] The book has remained surprisingly out of print. (Sic!)

(*) Two of my earlier original posts on humor and freedom of expression:

- Song of Songs vs. Marriage of Figaro: An Original Essay by Payman Akhalghi.
- Freedom of Expression in Films: A short list with my original commentary, on Facebook.

© 2015, Payman Akhalghi. All rights reserved.

(*) Payman Akhlaghi is a composer, pianist and piano teacher based in Los Angeles. His repertoire covers Classical music, as well as Persian (Iranian) Music, Pop Music, and Film Music. For information on the lessons in the Greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Encino, Brentwood, etc. please call: 310-208-2927. Thank you.

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