Varda by Agnes (2019)

Varda leaves us with a final masterclass to savour, lovingly made in the documentary form that she so adored.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Agnes Varda
2019 | France | Documentary/Biography | 115 mins | 1.85:1 | French & English
Not rated (likely to be M18 for some nudity)

Plot: Agnes Varda, photographer, installation artist and pioneer of the Nouvelle Vague, is an institution of French cinema. Taking a seat on a theatre stage, she uses photos and film excerpts to provide an insight into her unorthodox oeuvre.
Awards: Official Selection (Berlin)
International Sales: MK2

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate/Informative
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Review #1,804

(Reviewed on screener)

Spoilers: No

One of cinema’s most important female filmmakers passed away earlier this year.  She was 90.  Here she leaves us with a final masterclass to savour, lovingly made in the documentary form she so adored.

Varda by Agnes is for fans only, though it would also work as a fascinating introduction to the filmmaker or a celebration of her enviable and varied filmography. For much of the documentary, Agnes Varda is seen sitting on stage speaking to several auditoriums of wide-eyed listeners.

Interspersed with excerpts from some of her most essential shorts and features, including Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962), One Sings and the Other Doesn’t (1977), Vagabond (1985), The Gleaners and I (2000) and the penultimate Faces Places (2017), and accompanied by her eye-opening commentary that covers everything from history, art, influences and trivia to personal reflection, Varda by Agnes is not just an artist’s recollection of her memories of life, but also the awareness of the legacy she will leave behind.

The recency of her passing does leave a bittersweet taste, rendering the work inspirational yet elegiac.  But it is her unbridled enthusiasm towards documenting people and places in creative and artistic ways, and often doing so as she travels (sometimes halfway around the world) that will rub off on you.

Her excitement in revisiting the past occasionally takes her to emotional territory, particularly her fondness for Jacques Demy, her late husband.  This is a work by a filmmaker for cinephiles.

Grade: B+


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