fri 14/06/2024

Varda by Agnès review - a richly moving film farewell | reviews, news & interviews

Varda by Agnès review - a richly moving film farewell

Varda by Agnès review - a richly moving film farewell

Her wonderful personality to the fore, Agnès Varda shares her life and work

A last beach: Agnès Varda Courtesy BFI

French director Agnès Varda looks back over a cinematic career of seven decades in this a richly moving film farewell, finished not long before her death at the end of March, aged 90.

It’s structured around a series of masterclasses in which she takes audiences through her work, joined in conversation by some of her collaborators (plentiful screen clips present many more). Varda defines the three words important to her in making films as “inspiration, creation, sharing”, and Varda by Agnès is testament to her special talent in that last category.

It’s a selective survey, from her remarkable 1954 debut La Pointe Courte and 1962 New Wave classic Cléo from 5 to 7 through to 21st century documentary projects, shot digitally and with an increasingly personal tone, such as The Gleaners and I (2000), The Beaches of Agnès (2008) and Faces Places from two years ago (the Oscar nomination for that last film brought her remarkable meme success and a greatly broadened audience). The section devoted to Jacquot de Nantes, the film she made about the life and death of her husband, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg director Jacques Demy, is especially powerful: she filmed his final moments, she says, “not to stop time, but to accompany time”. Sandrine Bonnaire, the star of Varda’s uncompromising 1985 masterpiece Vagabond, joins her to share memories of making that one as the two of them are pushed along a set of dolly tracks in the rain, a lovely eccentric touch (pictured below). Some of the flops get a mention too, like her all-star fantasy comedy One Hundred and One Nights (1995), complete with Robert De Niro getting dunked in its boating scene.Varda by Agnes_Courtesy BFINo less important than the films, Varda’s sheer embracing warmth shines through, the deep interest she showed in her subjects. “Nothing is trite if you film people with empathy and love,” she insists, and she always did, the rewards more than proportionate. She relished the unusual, the maverick. Visual art projects became increasingly important in later years, including an appearance at the Venice Biennale dressed as a potato, a tomb memorial for a beloved cat, and the “cinema shacks” she made from old film reels (she showed an ecological awareness long before most). An act of gleaning in itself, a film recycling, Varda by Agnès is a beguiling scrapbook of memories, brimming with joie de vivre, united by a personality who is utterly engaging. 

Below: watch the trailer for Varda by Agnès


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