Agnès Varda – Jane B. par Agnès V. AKA Jane B. for Agnes V. (1988)


There is a good theory that explains why Agnes Varda’s Jane B. for Agnes V. was never officially distributed in the United States. Apparently, the few distributors that saw it after Varda completed it in 1988 concluded that it was too abstract and therefore too risky to sign. So until recently, it had been screened only a few times at festivals and retrospectives.

Having just viewed Jane B. for Agnes V. for the first time ever, I can agree that it is different. It is a fluid experimental project that matches the audacity of Jean-Luc Godard’s early films and the quiet elegance of Eric Rohmer’s best films, but feels distinctively modern. There is a side of it that easily could have been envisioned by the late Chantal Akerman as well. There was a script for it, but once Varda started shooting the film evolved and actually expanded in different directions. (Le Petit Amout aka Kung-Fu Master! emerged as a natural continuation of this expansion). Continue reading

Agnès Varda – Documenteur (1981)


Documenteur, Agnès Varda’s companion piece and follow-up to her documentary Mur murs, shares with it a filming location and a similarly punning title (a menteur is a liar, in French). But the similarities end there: while Mur murs is a more or less straightforward film that purports to document the murals, the artists who created them, and the effect the pictures have on the neighborhoods surrounding them, Documenteur, which includes shots of some of those same murals and has scenes set in those same neighborhoods, is, by its own admission, “an emotion picture.” Neither pure fictional feature film nor documentary, it’s perhaps best described as a documentary with a fictionalized main character. Continue reading

Agnès Varda – Les plages d’Agnès AKA The Beaches of Agnès (2008)


BY ROGER EBERT / March 2, 2009

Dear Agnes Varda. She is a great director and a beautiful, lovable and wise woman, through and through. It is not enough that she made some of the first films of the French New Wave. That she was the Muse for Jacques Demy. That she is a famed photographer and installation artist. That she directed the first appearances on film of Gerald Depardieu, Phillipe Noiret–and Harrison Ford! Or that after gaining distinction as a director of fiction, she showed herself equally gifted as a director of documentaries. And that she still lives, as she has since the 1950s, in the rooms opening off each side of a once-ruined Paris courtyard, each room a separate domain. Continue reading

Agnès Varda – Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse AKA The Gleaners and I (2000)

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The film is more than a documentary — it’s a kind of personal essay on celluloid by French New Wave filmmaker Agnes Varda, director of “Le Bonheur” and “Sans Toit Ni Loi”. She’s inspired by several old paintings that depict women picking up grain from the fields, and goes on to look for this traditional practice in all of its modern forms, observing some fascinating things along the way. One of the most interesting things is the way different people look at the same phenomenon differently, depending on their relationship to it. A supermarket manager explains how certain food must be removed from the store at a certain point, whether it’s still edible or not; it’s a matter of law and public health as well as good business. From the scavenger’s point of view, the manager is crazy — in fact, so is the entire way of life he represents. People throw away plenty of good food every day, and it’s almost a crime not to pick it up out of the trash and eat it. Yum yum.
The film’s funniest moment turns on exactly this kind of difference in perspective. An artist, who bikes through the region looking for found objects to use in his creations, shows Varda how he finds his materials.
“Some of the towns are thoughtful enough to publish a map like this, showing the areas and times where objects will be available on the streets,” he says, holding up just such a map.
“But isn’t that actually a map of dates for people to put out their trash?” Varda notes. “Oh, yeah, right,” says the artist, as if he’s never considered that the system wasn’t set up simply for his benefit. Trash and treasure, clearly, are in the eyes of the beholder.. Continue reading

Agnès Varda – La Pointe courte [+Extras] (1956)

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The great Agnes Varda’s film career began with this graceful, penetrating study of a marriage on the rocks, set against the backdrop of a small Mediterranean fishing village. Both a stylized depiction of the complicated relationship between a married couple (played by Silvia Monfort and Philippe Noiret) and a documentary-like look at the daily struggles of the locals, Varda’s discursive, gorgeously filmed debut was radical enough to later be considered one of the progenitors of the coming French new wave. Continue reading