Agnès Varda Retrospective
When we showed The Beaches of Agnès at Keswick Film Club people loved it and wanted to see more of Varda's work. We have invited her to come along and to have an installation at the Theatre during the Festival - we're hopeful but no guarantees yet...
Agnès Varda (born 30 May 1928) is a French film director and professor at European Graduate School. Her movies, photographs, and art installations focus on documentary realism, feminist issues, and social commentary - with a distinct experimental style.
Despite similarities to the French New Wave, films by Varda belonged more precisely to the complementary Rive Gauche (Left Bank) cinema movement. The group was strongly tied to the nouveau roman movement in literature and politically was positioned to the Left. Like the French New Wave, its members would often collaborate with each other.
Varda was married to the film director Jacques Demy from 1962 until his death in 1990. Varda was one of the five persons to attend Jim Morrison's burial in Paris at the Père Lachaise Cemetery
Varda's masterpiece focuses on a dead young woman, Mona, played by Sandrine Bonnaire. We keep returning to her body frozen in a ditch between flashbacks of her itinerant life. The subtle style has since moved into the mainstream: a striking mixture of documentary-style realism, including a voice-over from Varda herself as if she knew the woman, with great formalism employing an acute cinematic eye. 'What a film this is. Like so many of the greatest films, it tells us a very specific story, strong and unadorned, about a very particular person...- it is only many days later that we reflect that the story of the vagabond could also be the story of our lives.' (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
Gleaners are the people who snap up unconsidered trifles: the ugly potatoes left behind after the harvest, the discarded fruit and veg of a market. They are also artists. Varda uses Millet's painting of women in a wheat field, as well as modern-day gleaners in thestreets of Paris, to produce her own hybrid: part-documentary, part-artwork, part humorous meditation on ageing (she's in her 70's as she makes the film). 'Varda tints every frame of The Gleaners and I with a kind of joyous mournfulness: When you realize life is slipping by you, you want to hold on to every scrap.' (Stephanie Zacharek, salon.com)
Glamorous Cléo survives by pretending to be someone she's not: secretly she's called Florence, and this isn't even her own hair. As she waits – in real-time – for the results of a test that might say 'cancer', something is liberated inside her. Varda's style is all jump cuts and jagged realism then surprising formalism, with a brilliant Michel Legrand soundtrack holding it all together. No wonder Godard appears in a cameo.