On March 29th, the world lost Agnès Varda, one of the most quietly influential filmmakers of the 20th (and 21st) century. Varda, who released her first film in 1954, is considered by many to be the ‘godmother’ of French new Wave cinema, if not the first New Wave filmmaker. Her first film, La Pointe-Courte, predated the first films of Goddard and his ilk by several years.
Perhaps the reason some don’t include her in this movement was that she seemed to unconsciously separate herself from it. Varga moved to films from photography, and knew little about the broader (and quite misogynistic) film industry when she released La Pointe Courte, and even when she released her second film, Cleo 5 to 7, in 1961.
Throughout her career, Agnès Varda did what she wanted to do. Fiercely independent, her signature blend of documentary and story-telling examined her subjects with empathy and curiosity, inviting her audiences to examine her characters and her stories. Her techniques, too, were trailblazing. In Vagabond Varda ‘interviewed’ characters her main character encounters, similar to documentary features. This technique today is familiar to anyone who enjoys shows like The Office or Parks and Recreation.
In her later years, Varda moved from her fiction-documentaries to pure documentaries, such as The Gleaners and I and Faces Places, which earned her an academy award nomination. Still, these personal, empathetic films eschewed the hallmarks of a traditional documentary. With these, as with her earlier works, Varda created something that was all her own.
You can find most of Varda’s filmography here in Media Services, including:
- la Pointe-Courte (DVD 4153)
- Cléo de 5 a 7 (DVD 4151)
- Vagabond (DVD 4152)
- Faces Places (DVD 15052)
- The Beaches of Agnes (DVD 6936)
- Daguerréotypes (DVD 9187)
- One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (DVD 7521)
- Kung Fu Master! (DVD 15081)