Agnès Varda: The director, the artist, the icon.
Agnès Varda was arguably one of the most influential female film makers to date. Passing away earlier this year at the age of 90, her 70 year career in film, art and photography was one that started movements and influenced others. A fashion icon that embraced getting older with colour and a distinctive style. Her voice, film and art was one that supported the underdog, and in recent years she was an advocate for the #metoo movement, taking part in the 2018 protest at The Cannes film festival.
To many she’s known as the Grandmother of French New Wave; a film movement from the late 1950s to 60s that many film makers still refer to as having the greatest influence on their own work it, alike Vardas work, was rebellious, rejecting the traditions of French cinema, and further defined by its use of on location filming, and embracing the unconventional.
Many consider her first feature film, La Pointe Courte (1954) the first unofficial film of the French New Wave, however this and her early work falls more with the Left Bank movement. Although similar to French New Wave, Left Bank comes earlier. It is seen as a more experimental movement that mixes documentary style film making with the avent-garde.
We see this in La Pointe Courte (1954), Varda uses only two professional actors, with everyone else being town locals, often filmed naturally as they went about their day; she also uses seemingly random objects to portray the couples clashing relationship rather then relying solely on their words or actions. André Bazin said of the film,
It’s from here we see her unique style of story telling blossom. Instead of finding influences in the strict rules of film, she takes influence from her own imagination, from, art, books music and we see a fluidity and freedom she coins as cinécriture that transcends through all her films, be documentary, short film or feature film.
Along with her defining film style Vardas work is further disguised by focusing on marginalised or rejected members of society. She expressed that she was not interested in the accounts of people in power; instead she was,
After seeing Huey Newton, the leader of the Black Panthers arrested for killing a policeman she made two films that followed the “free Huey” campaign and the demonstrations that proceeded.
Many of her films also focused on issues faced by women and featured a female lead, it is because of this she is seen as a leading feminist filmmaker. However she expressed that she was no theorists on feminism she just created her work on her own terms in her own way, not changing her craft to fit in with the conventions created by the dominant male presence in film.
Film critic Delphine Bénézet argued that Varda and her work was of the utmost importance in film history, a thought cemented by her winning a honorary Oscar in 2017 for her contribution to film.
Her loss will be felt greatly but she will be forever remembered as one of the greats.
The screening of ‘Faces Places’, directed by Agnès Varda in collaboration with street artist and self-styled photograffeur, JR, takes place at the Whitaker this evening at 7:30pm.
The film, a funny, moving and multi-layered film documents two kindred spirits from different generations exploring the French countryside in JR’s camera van, taking photos of the people they meet and pasting their huge images to village walls. The directorial duo challenge passers-by to look again at familiar surroundings and invite conversations about life and what art can do.
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2 courses £13.50 per person, served at 6:30pm.