Agnès Varda: Varda by Agnès

It’s not even a year ago Agnès Varda passed away after a long and productive film-life. This film, from 2019, has been called her swan song and indeed it is a beautiful hommage to the director and what she has left behind of short documentaries, short fiction, long fiction, installations, visual art… what an oeuvre and what a fine piece of film history, it represents. Made by herself.

There she sits in her chair in a theatre with an audience of young people talking Cinema, showing clips from her films, giving comments or a better word encouragement to those in the audience, who want to make films. She starts by saying that for her there are three important words connected to her filmmaking: ”Inspiration, Creation and Partager” – the last one in English ”sharing”, ”you don’t make films for yourself”.

I enjoyed the many clips, some being from « Daguerretopies » from 1976, a documentary with the people in Rue Daguerre in the 14th arrondissement in Paris, where Varda was living. A true documentary and one she talks about with love. We let the scenes develop our of respect for the people being filmed. I have many times used this film when teaching : « look around you, find something/someone close to you », « everything is interesting if you have the curiosity ». Varda had it in documentary after documentary, for instance in the 2000 documentary « Les glaneurs et la glaneuse », from which she in the film shows a clip with a man, she often met picking up left over fruit at the market. A man with is own dignity. In that film and many others she makes references to art history, she breaks all academic narrative rules ; inspiring it is to hear her talk about the small digital cameras and how it changed her film carreer. “I became a visual artist”. 

My most famous film, however, she says (PHOTO) is « Cléo from 5 to 7 » from 1962. Legendary American critic Roger Ebert wrote about the film in 2012 : … Varda is sometimes referred to as the godmother of the French New Wave. I have been guilty of that myself. Nothing could be more unfair. Varda is its very soul, and only the fact that she is a woman, I fear, prevented her from being routinely included with Godard, Truffaut, Resnais, Chabrol, Rivette, Rohmer and for that matter her husband Jacques Demy. The passage of time has been kinder to her films than some of theirs, and “Cléo from 5 to 7” plays today as startlingly modern. Released in 1962, it seems as innovative and influential as any New Wave film…

She talks about being a woman in a man’s world in this cinematic autobiography, « I am a feminist », she says in a rich documentary that is full of humour and unpretentious from A to Z.

We have on this site written several texts about Agnès Varda – you might want to read them before or after having watched one of the 17 films by the director available on http://dafilms.com/

”Varda by Agnès” is available on dvd and blueray. 

France, 2019, 115 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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