Cinema Review: Varda by Agnès

Posted 6 months ago in Cinema Reviews

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Varda by Agnès

Director: Agnès Varda

Released:  19 July

Agnès Varda died, aged 90, on March 29 this year. It is truly fitting that her swansong is her reflections on her remarkable career. The Belgian-born French film director, photographer and artist is regarded as central to the development of the widely influential French New Wave film movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Never eschewing the experimental, Varda also broke boundaries with her documentary realism and unorthodox approach to social commentary. 

Varda by Agnès are her reflections, on her style and choices, played out against a number of lectures, reconstructions combined with clips from her films and superimpositions of herself back into the original frames. Whether she is looking at the daily lives of Parisians in Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), looking at the Black Panthers through her 16mm camera in ’68 or reconstructing the life of her late husband Jacques Demy in Jacquot de Nantes (1991), Varda is always surprising and upending convention.

Indeed, it was late in life when Varda finally started earning her due credits reaping an honorary Oscar in 2017, working with street artist JR on a crowd-funded documentary Faces Places, being commissioned by the Liverpool Biennal to creare a three-channel video installation combining extracts from three of Varda’s films. She also graced the cover of The Gentlewoman, in their 2018 Autumn/Winter issue, with her signature bowl-cut, dip-dyed hair.

“Three words are important to me: inspiration, creation and sharing. Inspiration is why you make a film. The motivations, ideas, circumstances and happenstance that ignite your desire to make a film. Creation is how you make the film. With what means, what structure? Alone or not alone? In colour or not? Creation is work. The third word is sharing. You don’t make films to watch them alone. You make them to share them.” Essential for any cinephile.

Words: Michael McDermott


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