Zero for Conduct

Released:  1933

Cast:  Gerard de Bedarieux, Louis Lefebvre, Gilbert Pruchon, Coco Golstein

SUMMARY:  At a French boarding school, boys return from their holiday vacation to a new teacher.  The boys despise most of their teachers, but this particular man seems to be more sympathetic and less strict.  However, the boys have learned how to work around the various other teachers.  They take advantage of their quirks and habits in order to make their own fun:  they refuse to get out of bed until a more superior teacher comes into the dormitory, and manage to wander through town by themselves for a time, without the realization of their leading teacher.  The school is due to celebrate its own holiday with a lot of solemn activities, but four of the boys have a different idea.  The night before the celebration, a pillow fight breaks out in the dormitory; when it has settled, they tie their dormitory master to his bed and sneak out.  They make their way to the attic, where they have stored up various “ammo”:  trash, old shoes, etc.  During the celebration, they climb onto the roof of the attic and being gleefully pelting the assembled dignitaries with the ammo until the men are driven inside.

MY TAKE:  Evidently I have hit another streak of movies that make no sense to me.  This one was a short, so at least I didn’t have to suffer through several hours of confusion.  It wasn’t even that there was a complete lack of plot, it’s just that the majority of the film seems pointless:  only the ending is interesting.  I guess the earlier parts are supposed to demonstrate that the boys are fed up with their teachers and their tyranny, but I couldn’t figure out what they were doing.  Things jumped back and forth a lot, and when you don’t have a lot of time to figure out who’s who, it makes things hard to follow.  Had they focused more on how the boys were preparing for their assault — how they made their plan, how they found their ammo, etc. — I think it would have been more cohesive and interesting.

RATING:  Weird.

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