Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Late Great Agnès Varda

Legendary director, screenwriter, editor, photographer, and artist Agnès Varda died on March 29 2019 at the age of 90. The cause was breast cancer.

Agnès Varda was born Arlette Varda on May 30, 1928, in Ixelles, Belgium. Her father was Greek while her mother was French. In 1940 her family moved to Sète, France. She was 18 when she changed her first name from "Arlette" to "Agnès". Miss Varda studied art history at the École du Louvre and photography at the École des Beaux-Arts. She then went to work as a photographer at the Théâtre National Populaire in Paris.

It was while Agnès Varda was a photographer that she became interested in film making. Her first movie was La Pointe-Courte in 1955. She would make several more feature films throughout her career, including Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962), Le bonheur (1965), Les créatures (1966), Lions Love (1969), L'une chante l'autre pas (1977), Documenteur (1981), Sans toit ni loi (1985), Kung-fu master! (1988), Jane B. par Agnès V. (1988), Jacquot de Nantes (1991), and Les cent et une nuits de Simon Cinéma (1995).

Miss Varda would also make many short subjects throughout her career, including both narrative shorts and documentary shorts. Her first short was "L'opéra-mouffe" in 1958. Her first documentary short was "O saisons, ô châteaux" that same year. Over the years she directed such documentary shorts as "Black Panthers" (1968), "Réponse de femmes: Notre corps, notre sexe" (1975), "Ulysse" (1983), and "Viennale Walzer" (2004). In all she directed twenty different short subjects.

Agnès Varda also directed feature length documentaries. Among her documentaries were Loin du Vietnam (1967), Daguerréotypes (1977), L'univers de Jacques Demy (1995), and Quelques veuves de Noirmoutier (2006). Miss Varda also worked in television, making the TV movie Nausicaa (1970) and the documentary mini-series Agnès de ci de là Varda, among other television projects.

Agnès Varda was a truly groundbreaking director. Indeed, it is possible that without her films the French New Wave would have never taken place. Agnès Varda would have an impact on the French New Wave, the British New Wave, and various other film movements around the world. What is more, her impact is still being felt to this day. Alfonso Cuarón's film Roma (2018) displays her influence. Of course, Miss Varda's influence went beyond narrative cinema. Her documentaries often focused on everyday life.

Of course, Agnès Varda was also a pioneering female film maker. She made her first film at a time when very few women were directing in either Europe or North America. Because she was a woman, at times she had difficulties getting her films made. As a result she became a true auteur, not only directing her films, but often writing, editing, and producing them as well. What is more, she lent a genuinely female voice to her films that was rare in cinema at the time. She utilised female protagonists at a time when they were rare in both European cinema and Hollywood. Agnès Varda was a truly revolutionary film maker, and the world of cinema will be poorer without her.

No comments: