At the end of ‘Faces and Places’ (2017), Agnes Varda cried because Godard did not open the door of his house when he wanted to visit him. It was a very touching moment that now becomes more poetic because we could never get to see the last meeting of the last two survivors of the Nouvelle Vague.
And it is that, the Belgian filmmaker, who has left us at 90 years old, was not only the only woman within this movement but she is also the forerunner of it because in 1955 she signed a film entitled ‘ La point Courte ‘ that is studied and known as the probable antecedent of the whole new wave of French cinema.
Like her colleagues, Varda not only dedicated herself to making films, she was a multidisciplinary artist and worked as a photographer and teacher. Although its relevance is in the fact of being one of the first directors who, in addition, encouraged other women to make films.
When in 2017 he received the Donostia Award at the San Sebastian Festival, he declared to El Mundo : “Get out of the kitchens, from your houses, get the tools to make movies. ” And that is why in all her work female characters and feminist struggles stand out.
She was married to Jacques Demy, another very important filmmaker of this wave and author of titles such as ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ (1964) and ‘The Young Ladies of Rocherfort’ (1967), after her death in 1990 she would dedicate the film ‘ Jacquot de Nantes’ to her ‘(1991) and based on his diaries and the documentaries’ Les demoiselles ont eu 25 ans’ (1993) on’ The young ladies of Rochefort ‘, and’ L’univers de Jacques Demy ‘(1995) about the life and work of her husband.
Just ten years ago, Varda would reveal the director’s bisexuality and his death from AIDS; This shows how ahead of her time the filmmaker was, who lived with it without any prejudice or problem. Her progressive and modern vision is very evident in some of her documentary works.
For the past 20 years she had dedicated to the documentary, something quite common in veteran European authors, possibly due to the difficulty of finding financing for works of fiction; in fact, ‘Faces and Places’ was developed by crowfunding. That said, Varda has worked throughout her career in this field, and she speaks of ” subjective documentary ” because she believes that the more involved she is in what she is filming, the closer she gets to the truth.
The essential films of Agnes Varda
The best way to get started in his cinema is the work ‘Cleo de 5 a 7 ‘ (1962), a masterpiece of the Nouvelle Vague, at the height of titles such as ‘ Los 400 coups’ (1959) by Truffaut or ‘Al final de Godard’s Getaway ‘ (1960). With extreme sensitivity, the filmmaker talks about love and death, the moment a cancer patient meets a soldier about to go into battle.
It is a film with a strong experimental character but that supposes the necessary feminine touch that all this current of French directors has. A little later and also very interesting is ‘The creatures’ (1966) where, from the fantasy genre, he talks about creating fiction.
Influenced by the left movements of the late 1960s and within the new feminist currents, to which she was closely linked, we find ‘Una canta, la otra no’ (1977), a film about sorority that speaks of the meeting of two women years after one helps the other board. A portentous portrait of femininity.
Despite his vast work, he hardly received recognition at major festivals. ‘Without roof or law’ (1985) would win the Golden Lion at the Venice Festival. A very painful film that recreates the last moments of a vagabond teenager who is found dead. The film VF walks between something close to Italian neorealism and the documentary, and hides a brutal reflection on female social repression. Probably his best film with ‘Cleo from 5 to 7’.
Already in the 21st century, and within his immense documentary creation, it is worth highlighting ‘The gleaners’ and the gleaner’ (included in the BBC’s list of the best films of the 21st century ), but the most relevant thing is to see how it has been become a leading character in his own work.
And it is that, all her naturalness, tenderness and sensitivity are multiplied by her old age and all the characters, dialogues, reflections, emotions and feelings that her works of fiction gave off, are now reflected in herself, in every wrinkle on her face.
His closeness has given us two unforgettable works : on the one hand ‘The beaches of Agnes’ (2008) where he reviews his entire biography, in mosaic form and through all kinds of graphic documents.
‘ Faces and Places ‘, which is part of an artistic project with the photographer JR, showed us the most human side of the director who, as she passes through different towns in France, speaks to everyone with sympathy, kindness and her characteristic smile and always with aesthetic concern.
In that film we can see that there is something very pure in his gaze, an extremely sensitive woman who has not stopped creating practically until the last of her days.
A little over a month ago, at the Berlin Festival, he announced his retirement from the cinema with the documentary ‘Varda by Agnes’, received with great enthusiasm, and which will undoubtedly be seen in many festivals throughout the year, being the best tribute possible.
Agnes Varda abandons us, ascends to the pantheon of great filmmakers and orphans a filmography full of characters and unforgettable moments. The penultimate of the survivors of those who invented modern cinema and who, unlike Jean-Luc Godard, his cinema never darkened and over the years became something more pure, full of life and truth.