La Pointe Courte

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La Pointe Courte
Home media cover
Directed byAgnès Varda
Written byAgnès Varda
StarringSilvia Monfort
Philippe Noiret
CinematographyPaul Soulignac
Louis Soulanes
Edited byAlain Resnais
Henri Colpi
Music byPierre Barbaud
Release date
  • May 1955 (May 1955)
Running time
86 minutes

La Pointe Courte [la pwɛ̃t kuʁt] is a 1955 French drama film directed by Agnès Varda (in her feature film directorial debut). It has been cited by many critics as a forerunner of the French New Wave,[1] with the historian Georges Sadoul calling it "truly the first film of the nouvelle vague".[2] The film takes place in Sète in the south of France. The Pointe Courte ("short point") is a tiny quarter of the town known as the fisherman's village.


A young woman arrives on the Paris train at the port of Sète, where she is met by her husband who grew up there. Not sure whether she wants to continue their marriage, she has come to talk it through. As the couple wander around the fishermen's quarter, the film shows the life of its inhabitants. The women look after their homes and their children, one of whom falls ill and dies. The men in small boats follow their ancient trade, perturbed by pollution of the lagoon where they catch shellfish. The authorities try to stop use of the lagoon, with one young fisherman being arrested and jailed.

He is let out, however, for the annual regatta, at which the whole town turns out to cheer the jousts. Boats row past each other and, from a platform at the prow, a man with a lance tries to tip his opponent into the sea. The jailed man does so well that the father of his sweetheart gives him permission to woo her. Through the happy crowds dancing in the street, the Parisian couple walk to the railway station, having decided to continue their life together.



In a 1962 interview, Varda spoke of two present themes in the film with "the first being a couple reconsidering their relationship and a village that is trying to resolve several collective problems of survival".[3] In her movie Les plages d'Agnès (The Beaches of Agnès), Varda says her film was inspired by William Faulkner's The Wild Palms.[4]

In the magazine Cineaste, movie journalist Jonathan Kirshner pointed out themes in La Pointe Courte that Varda would revisit in later films, namely "a blend of documentary and fiction, detailed attentiveness to the economic conditions of the working class, subtle observations about the gender dynamics of social and familial relations, and, of course, the notable presence of cats."[1]


Varda originally visited La Pointe Courte to take pictures for a friend who could no longer visit her home. After seeing the footage she took there, she rented a camera to shoot a film about a couple from Paris who were visiting La Pointe Courte, the husband's home town. Varda set up her own co-op and began production. The budget for the film was $14,000; roughly one quarter the budget of other feature films of the era including The 400 Blows and Breathless. No members of the cast or crew were paid during the production.[5] Varda left the artistic direction of the film in the hands of her friend and artist Valentine Schlegel.[6]


The film was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1955. Its premiere in Paris was in 1956 at the Studio Parnasse. It played with Jean Vigo's documentary film À propos de Nice (1930).[3]

Home media[edit]

The Criterion Collection has released the film in a four-DVD Region 1 box-set.[7]


  1. ^ a b Kirshner, J. (2021). An Artist in Her Own Right: The Cinema of Agnès Varda. CINEASTE, 46(3), 4-9.
  2. ^ Vincendeau, Ginette. "La Pointe Courte: How Agnès Varda "Invented" the New Wave". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b Neupert, Richard John. (2007). A history of the French new wave cinema (2nd ed.). Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780299217037. OCLC 538539415.
  4. ^ "La Pointe Courte". BAMPFA. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  5. ^ Neupert, Richard John. (2007). A history of the French new wave cinema (2nd ed.). Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780299217037. OCLC 538539415.
  6. ^ "Valentine Schlegel par Agnès Varda". Galerie Nathalie Obadia. Retrieved 2023-02-03.
  7. ^ Chan, Andrew (24 January 2008). "Agnès Varda's La Pointe Courte on Criterion". Slant. Retrieved 29 March 2019.

External links[edit]