Agnès Varda

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Agnès Varda
Agnès Varda at Guadalajara Film Festival.jpg
Varda receiving an honour at the Guadalajara Film Festival
Born (1928-05-30) 30 May 1928 (age 86)
Brussels, Belgium
Occupation Director, screenwriter, editor, actor, producer, installation artist, photographer
Years active 1955–present
Spouse(s) Jacques Demy (1962–1990; his death)

Agnès Varda (born 30 May 1928) is a Greek-French feminist film director and professor at the European Graduate School.[1] Her movies, photographs and art installations focus on documentary realism, feminist issues and social commentary — with a distinct experimental style.

Life and career[edit]

Agnès Varda is an important and often overlooked voice in the modern French cinema. Her career pre-dates the start of the Nouvelle vague (French New Wave), and La Pointe Courte contains many elements specific to that movement that make it famous.[2]

Varda was born Arlette Varda in Brussels, Belgium, the daughter of Christiane (née Pasquet) and Eugène Jean Varda, an engineer.[3] Her mother was French and her father came from a family of Greek refugees from Asia Minor. Varda studied Art History at the École du Louvre before getting a job as the official photographer for the Théâtre national populaire in Paris.[2]

Despite similarities to the French New Wave, films by Varda belonged more precisely to the complementary Rive Gauche (Left Bank) cinema movement, along with Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Cayrol and Henri Colpi. The group was strongly tied to the nouveau roman movement in literature and politically was positioned to the Left. Like the French New Wave, its members would often collaborate with each other.

Varda was one of the five people to attend Jim Morrison's burial in 1971 in Paris at the Père Lachaise Cemetery. She was a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005 and a member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 1983.

Notable Films[edit]

La Pointe Courte[edit]

She liked photography but was interested in moving into film. After spending a few days filming the small French fishing town of La Pointe Courte for a terminally ill friend who could no longer visit on his own, Varda decided to shoot a feature film of her own.Thus in 1954, Varda's first film, La Pointe Courte, about an unhappy couple working through their relationship in a small fishing town, was released. The film is a stylistic precursor to the French New Wave.[4] At the time, Varda was influenced by the philosophy of Gaston Bachelard, whom she once studied under at the Sorbonne. “She was particularly interested in his theory of ‘l’imagination des matières,’ in which certain personality traits were found to correspond to concrete elements in a kind of psychoanalysis of the material world”. This idea arrives in La Pointe Courte as the characters personality traits clash it is shown through the opposition of objects such as wood and steel. To further her interest in character abstraction Varda used two professional actors, Silvia Monfort and Philippe Noiret combined with the residents of La Pointe Courte to provide a realistic element that lends itself to a documentary aesthetic, inspired by Neo-realism. Varda would continue to use this combination of fictional and documentary elements in her films.[5]

Cléo from 5 to 7[edit]

Following La Pointe Courte, Cleo from 5 to 7 follows a pop singer through two extraordinary hours in which she awaits the results of a recent biopsy. At first glance, the film is about a woman coming to terms with her mortality, which is a common auteurist trait for Agnès Varda.[6] On a deeper level, Cleo from 5 to 7 confronts the traditionally objectified woman by giving Cleo her own vision. She is unable to be constructed through gaze of others which is often represented through a motif of reflections and Cleo’s ability to strip her body of to-be-looked-at-ness attributes (clothing items, wigs, etc.). Stylistically, Cleo from 5 to 7 borders documentary and fiction as La Pointe Courte had. Although many believe that the ninety-minute film represents the diegetic action, which occurs between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., in real time, there is actually a half-hour difference.[5]

Vagabond[edit]

In 1984, Varda created Sans toit ni loi, or Vagabond in English, which is a drama about the death of a young female drifter named Mona. The death is investigated by an unseen and unheard interviewer who focuses on the men who have last seen her. The story of Vagabond is told through nonlinear techniques, with the film being divided into forty-seven episodes, and each episode about Mona being told from a different person's perspective. Vagabond is considered to be one of Agnès Varda's greater feminist works in how the film deals with the de-fetishization of the female body from the male perspective.[7]

Jacquot de Nantes[edit]

Varda was married to the film director Jacques Demy from 1962 until his death in 1990, with whom she had one child, actor Mathieu Demy. Jacques Demy also legally adopted Rosalie Varda, Varda's daughter from a previous union with actor Antoine Bourseiller, who starred in her early film Cléo from 5 to 7. In 1991, Shortly after Jacques Demy's death, Agnès Varda created the film Jacquot de Nantes, which is about his life and death. The film is structured at first as being a recreation of his early life, being obsessed with the various crafts used for filmmaking like animation and set design. But then Varda provides elements of documentary by inserting clips of Demy's films as well as footage of him dying. The film continues with Varda's common theme of accepting death, but at its heart it is considered to be Varda's tribute to her late husband and their work.[6]

The Gleaners and I[edit]

Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse, or The Gleaners and I, is a documentary made in 2000 that focuses on Varda's interactions with gleaners who live in the French countryside, but also includes subjects who create art through recycled material, as well as an interview with psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche. The Gleaners and I is notable for its fragmented and free-form nature along with it being the first time Varda used digital cameras. This style of filmmaking is often interpreted as a statement that great things like art can still be created through scraps, yet modern economies encourage people to only use the finest product.[8]

Awards and accolades[edit]

  • For the 1985 documentary-style feature film Vagabond/Without Roof or Rule she received the Golden Lion of the Venice Film Festival.
  • 2002 Agnès Varda was the recipient of the prestigious French Academy prize, René Clair Award.[9]
  • On 4 March 2007, she was appointed a Grand Officer of the National Order of Merit of France.[10]
  • In 2009 The Beaches of Agnès won the best documentary film of the César Award.[11]
  • On 12 April 2009, she was made Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur.[12]
  • In May 2010 Varda received Directors' Fortnight's 8th Carosse d'Or award for lifetime achievement at the Cannes Film Festival.[13]
  • 22 September 2012 Varda received an honorary degree from Liège University Belgium.[1]
  • On 14 May 2013, Varda was promoted to Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit of France.[10]
  • On 22 May 2013, Varda received the 2013 FIAF Award for her work in the field of film preservation and restoration.[14]

Filmography[edit]

Agnès Varda speaking at a retrospective series at the Harvard Film Archive
Film
Year Title English Title Credits
1955 La Pointe Courte Director, Writer
1962 Cléo de 5 à 7 Cléo from 5 to 7 Director, Writer
1965 Le Bonheur Happiness Director, Writer
1966 Les Créatures The Creatures Director, Writer
1967 Loin du Vietnam Far from Vietnam Co-Director
1969 Lions Love Lions Love Director, Writer, Producer
1975 Daguerréotypes Director, Writer
1977 L'Une chante, l'autre pas One Sings, the Other Doesn't Director, Writer
1981 Mur murs - Director, Writer
1980–1981 Documenteur Documenteur Director, Writer
1985 Sans toit ni loi Vagabond Director, Writer, Editor
1986–1987 Jane B. par Agnès V. Jane B. by Agnes V. Director, Writer, Editor
1987 Le Petit amour Kung-Fu Master Director, Writer
1991 Jacquot de Nantes Director, Writer
1993 Les demoiselles ont eu 25 ans The Young Girls Turn 25 Director, Writer
1994 Les Cent et une nuits de Simon Cinéma A Hundred and One Nights Director, Writer
2000 Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse The Gleaners and I Director, Writer, Producer, Editor
2002 Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse... deux ans après The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later Director, Editor
2003 Lion volatil, Le Director, Writer, Producer, Editor
2004 Cinévardaphoto - Director, Writer
2006 Quelques veuves de Noirmoutier - Director, Writer
2008 Les plages d'Agnès The Beaches of Agnès Director, Writer, Producer
Short Films
Year Title English Title Credits
1958 L'opera-mouffe Diary of a Pregnant Woman Director, Writer
1958 La cocotte d'azur - Director, Writer
1958 Du côté de la côte - Director, Writer
1958 O saisons, ô châteaux - Director, Writer
1961 Les fiancés du pont Mac Donald ou (Méfiez-vous des lunettes noires) - Director, Writer
1963 Salut les cubains - Director, Star
1965 Elsa la rose - Director, Writer
1967 Oncle Yanco - Director, Writer, Star
1968 Black Panters Huey Director
1975 Réponse de femmes: Notre corps, notre sexe Women Reply Director, Writer, Star
1976 Plaisir d'amour en Iran - Director, Writer
1984 Les dites cariatides The So-Called Caryatids Director, Writer, Star
1984 7p. cuis., s. de b., ... à saisir - Director, Writer
1986 T’as de beaux escaliers, tu sais You’ve Got Beautiful Stairs, You Know Director, Writer
1986 Ulysse - Director, Writer, Star
2003 Le lion volatil - Director, Writer
2004 Ydessa, les ours et etc. Ydessa, the Bears and etc. Director, Writer
2004 Der Viennale '04-Trailer - Director, Writer, Star
2005 Les dites cariatides bis - Director, Writer
2005 Cléo de 5 à 7: souvenirs et anecdotes - Director
Television
Year Title English Title Credits
1970 Nausicaa (TV movie) - Writer, Director
1983 Une minute pour une image (TV series Documentary) - Director
2010 P.O.V., episode 3, season 23, "The Beaches of Agnes" - Director, Writer, Producer, Cinematographer
2011 Agnès de ci de là Varda, 5 episodes (TV series documentary) - Director, Writer, Star

Publications[edit]

  • Les Plages d'Agnès Texte Illustre (2010)
  • 4 by Agnès Varda: Essays (2007)
  • Agnès Varda, l'île et elle, Actes sud (2006)
  • Sans toit ni loi un film d'Agnès Varda (2003)
  • La marginalité à l'écran (1999)
  • Varda par Agnès (1994)
  • La Côte d'Azur, d'azur, d'azur, d'azur (1961)

Further reading[edit]

  • How Agnès Varda "invented" the New Wave by Ginette Vincendeau, Four by Agnes Varda, Criterion, 2008
  • Smith, Alison. Agnès Varda Manchester University Press, 1998. Pg 3.
  • Neupert, Richard. A History of the French New Wave Cinema. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin. 2007. Pg 57.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b See: Agnès Varda Faculty Page @ European Graduate School
  2. ^ a b Smith, Alison. Agnes Varda Manchester University Press, 1998. Pg 3.
  3. ^ http://www.filmreference.com/film/29/Agnes-Varda.html
  4. ^ Neupert, Richard. A History of the French New Wave Cinema University of Wisconsin Press, 2007. Pg. 57.
  5. ^ a b Fitterman-Lewis, To Desire Differently,Columbia University Press, 1996, pp. 215-245.
  6. ^ a b Wilson, Emma. "3. Mourning Films I." French Cinema since 1950: Personal Histories. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999. 42-46. Print. 8-June-2012
  7. ^ Hayward, Susan. "Beyond the Gaze and Into Femme-Filmécriture." French Film: Texts and Contexts. By Susan Hayward and Ginette Vincendeau. London: Routledge, 2000. 269-80. Print. 8-June-2012
  8. ^ Cruickshank, Ruth "The Work of Art in the Age of Global Consumption: Varda's Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse." L'esprit Créateur 47.3, (2007): pg. 119-132 Project MUSE. Web. 8-June-2012
  9. ^ http://www.egs.edu/faculty/agnes-varda/biography/
  10. ^ a b Grand Chancellery of the Legion of Honour
  11. ^ http://www.lescesarducinema.com/#palmares
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118017346?refCatId=3628
  14. ^ http://www.fiafnet.org/uk/news/21.html

External links[edit]