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DVD: Le Bonheur, L'Une Chante L’Autre Pas, La Pointe Courte, Vagabond | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Le Bonheur, L'Une Chante L’Autre Pas, La Pointe Courte, Vagabond

DVD: Le Bonheur, L'Une Chante L’Autre Pas, La Pointe Courte, Vagabond

Essential quartet from a unique director

Agnès Varda: unobtrusively worms into relationships

It can’t be a coincidence that the simultaneous release of four Agnès Varda DVDs draws a film each from the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, bringing the opportunity for a broad-sweep appraisal. It’s equally unsurprising that the films share Varda’s non-judgmental empathy with her subjects and their day-to-day worlds.

Agnes Vards La Pointe CourteLa pointe courte, released in 1954, is Varda’s first film. Although it captures the life of the eponymous fishing village, it’s a loose-ended examination of the collapsing relationship between a locally raised husband and his Parisian wife. Even at this point Varda had decided that the France which lies beyond Paris was central to her films. Both 1977’s L'une chante l’autre pas and 1985’s Vagabond pass through her chosen landscapes: Pomme in L'une chante l’autre pas is a travelling player, and Vagabond’s Mona drifts through a none too friendly Montpellier. Its trees are dying. Its grand houses are decaying.

Beyond the non chi-chi settings, Varda is about unobtrusively worming into relationships, whether they’re under pressure or need restating. Le bonheur, from 1964, is a disquieting look at a husband who, after falling for another woman, decides to share his new happiness with his wife. L'une chante l’autre pas follows two women through different worlds. They had first met when one helped the other seek an abortion.

Agnes Varda VagabondBut with Vagabond, Varda mapped the path of someone who had rejected relationships. This draining, depressing film is a landmark depiction of an outsider. With Sandrine Bonnaire’s Mona, it’s not just her circumstances that are enigmatic. Despite answering questions and offering opinions, she is unreadable. She is enigma personified. Mona isn’t even her real name. She has short liaisons, is also subjected to terrible things but drifts off again, wandering. Given the opportunity to realise a stated ambition to farm potatoes, she instead lounges in a caravan, like a deflated tyre. Rather than having fallen through society's cracks, she’s rejected society itself. Her fate is seen from the moment the films opens. Bonnaire is extraordinary in this compelling film.

Each DVD includes trailers for Varda’s films. La pointe courte is supplemented by the 1958 short Du côté de la côte. Otherwise, each DVD includes multiple shorts and Varda’s documentaries on the main film. Any of these four releases could be an entry point, but Vagabond leaves the most devastating effect.

Watch Agnès Varda talking about La pointe courte, from an early-Sixties interview


Despite answering questions and offering opinions, Vagabond's Mona is unreadable. She is enigma personified

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