Varda by Agnès

Film
3 out of 5 stars
Varda by Agnès

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

With a career that spans the terms of nine French presidents, Agnès Varda has charmed, entertained and provoked audiences with her extensive body of work. Now, at the age of 90, she looks back over her films, photos and art installations, in a new documentary.

‘Nothing is trite if you film it with love and empathy’, she says near the beginning of the film, sitting onstage at the Cartier Foundation in Paris. These words echo throughout the two-hour film, which blends past and present talking-heads footage with scenes from Varda’s work as she explains her motivations and creative processes.

Varda discusses highlights such as the experience of making ‘Vagabond’ with Sandrine Bonnaire, and how the concept of time operates in her most famous work, ‘Cleo from 5 to 7’. She also touches briefly on the subject of her husband, Jacques Demy, whose childhood inspired ‘Jacquot de Nantes’.

Then she chuckles at the lows. Films like the box-office bomb ‘One Hundred and One Nights’, which saw Robert De Niro offering up some very unconvincing French dialogue in his New York brogue, while boating leisurely on a lake with Catherine Deneuve.

Beaches and coastlines are a favourite subject of Varda’s, as are her cats, which she talks about in the same breath as French rationalism and seventeenth-century Flemish painters. It may sound very highfalutin, but from Varda it is charming.

Given how much work she’s produced, the doc is dense, becoming a touch repetitive. If anything, ‘Varda by Agnès’, feels like more of a masterclass in filmmaking than what you might typically expect from the lone female voice of the French New Wave.

It’s an enjoyable primer for audiences who haven’t seen any of her films, while those more familiar with her work will take great pleasure in listening to her musings. On a cheerful note, it was once thought that ‘Faces Places’ would be her final film, but it seems the nonagenarian is showing no signs of stopping just yet.

By: Joseph Walsh

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Director:
Agnés Varda

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