Zero for Conduct & The Flower Thief

Jean Vigo, France, 1933, 44 min., French w/ English subtitles, & Ron Rice, US, 1960, 16mm, 58 min.

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Zero for Conduct
Jean Vigo, France, 1933, 44 min., French w/ English subtitles  

The Flower Thief
Ron Rice, US, 1960, 16mm, 58 min. 

Introduced by Herb Shellenberger

An unexpected comparison between the two filmmakers’ work can be found in Vigo’s Zero de Conduite (1933) and Rice’s The Flower Thief (1960), both of the filmmakers most notorious works in their lifetime.

Zero for Conduct follows a group of schoolchildren banding together in a boarding school against the repressive headmasters, a representation of the anarchy and wildness that can surface in youth. A dramatic mixture of his own experiences in and out of boarding schools during his youth, as well as the foundational anti-authoritarian spirit of his father Miguel Almereyda, Vigo’s film is filled with fantasy and majesty, and posits the schoolyard as a rehearsal for resistance that one should take forward into their life.

In The Flower Thief, Rice shows future Warhol superstar Taylor Mead as a beatnik naïf, wandering through the crumbling fairyland of San Francisco, discovering the architecture, culture and people of the city like a fresh newborn. Whereas Zero for Conduct is a call to resistance, The Flower Thief’s only call is a resounding “meh,” with hangouts in Beat poet cafes, strolls around desolate, broken warehouses and empty-headed wagon rides down the hills of San Francisco signifying an alternative, more ambivalent route of becoming in the world. 

The Flower Thief preserved by Anthology Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation