Varda by Agnès review – inspiring look at a life in cinema | Documentary films

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The pioneering Belgian film-maker and artist Agnès Varda presented this film at the Berlin international film festival in February this year; one month later she died. A documentary that takes the form of an illustrated lecture, it’s designed as a swansong, a greatest hits showcase that revisits and consolidates her extensive body of work. Yet despite the formal setting (an opera house transformed into a cinema and filled with rapt film students), Varda’s tone remains generously intimate, friendly and unpretentious. At 90 and dressed in her signature head-to-toe purple, she is lucid and funny, able to parse her “failures” (such as 1995’s Robert De Niro-starring One Hundred and One Nights) as well as her successes. Running just shy of two hours, it’s a little long but, in Varda’s defence, there’s a lot of material to get through.

Excited by “dreams and reveries”, cats and potatoes, beaches, mirrors, social justice movements (she made films about the Black Panthers and “the feminist fight”) and, of course, her beloved late husband, Jacques Demy, Varda’s range is truly inspiring. Also inspiring is the playful, resourceful way she navigated the technological changes that came with the 21st century.

Varda talks about the three governing principles of film-making as “inspiration”, “creation” and “sharing”. Describing the editing process of 1962’s Cléo from 5 to 7, she explains how she played with depicting the passing of time, because it “feels different depending on whether we’re waiting for something or having fun”. What’s so invigorating is the way she gives each principle equal weighting, discussing her formal decisions, such as Cléo’s editing or the tracking shots that move right to left in 1985’s Vagabond, with the same intensity and enthusiasm as her more existential motivations (she describes her 1965 summer bummer classic Le Bonheur as “a beautiful summer peach with a worm inside”).

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Varda by Agnès review – inspiring look at a life in cinema | Documentary films

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