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RIP Agnes Varda

  • 29-03-2019 4:16pm
    Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 27,249 CMod ✭✭✭✭ johnny_ultimate

    I was genuinely shocked and devastated to see the headline this morning that iconic New Wave filmmaker Agnes Varda had died aged 90.

    A 90 year old dying isn’t exactly an unexpected or sudden tragedy. And Varda lived her life to the fullest, with a career without many equals in the history of the young medium of cinema.

    But what shocked me was that she’d seemed semi-invincible. That’s foolish, true, but if anything the last year or so has only seen the great director’s reputation and influence grow. Unlike fellow veteran Jean Luc Godard (who IMO was tied with Varda as possibly the greatest living filmmaker) who still remains largely out of the public eye, Agnes became more visuals over the past two years than ever before. The release of Faces Places felt like a long overdue celebration of this master of cinema (arguably a somewhat embarrassed correction to her not always being ranked among the best-of-the-best), and she embraced the opportunity. Only last month her last film premiered - at 90, she seemed as sharp and active as ever. Hence today’s news hits that little bit harder than if she had have spent her last few years privately. I mean, she probably had one of the best Instagram accounts out there.

    What a career though. As a key member of the New Wave, her voice provided a vital counterpoint to the male-dominated nature of the movement. Her work was thrillingly progressive but in a sort of casual, unassuming way. Still, films like Cleo from 5 to 7 and Vagabond remain key feminist masterpieces.

    She went on to reinvent herself as a cinema essayist, one of the vital practicioners of the form alongside Godard and Chris Marker. While her films were often deeply personal, she became more firmly embedded in her own films as time went on. And this is how we got to know Varda quite unlike we’ve ever gotten to know any other filmmakers. Films like The Gleaners and I are brilliant pieces of humanist filmmaking about neglected groups of people, but equally they’re magnificent films about Agnes Varda - a wonderful, funny, self-aware elderly woman playfully coming to terms with her own mortality. Her fascination with new technology was equally compelling - she truly understood the capacity of a handheld camcorder to dive deeper than a traditional cinema camera.

    The ‘New Wave’ label is often off-putting due to its (not always unwarranted) reputation for difficult, experimental filmmaking. But the thing about Agnes Varda, the thing that made her one of the truly great filmmakers of all time, was this sense of fun. Her films, especially the later ones, have this carefree vibe that makes even challenging subject matter easy to digest. She was almost without equal in that regard.

    If you haven’t had the pleasure, Faces Places was added to Netflix not so long ago. It’s a delightful not-quite swan song for one of the most brilliant people to ever pick up a film camera. RIP to one of the all-time greats.


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,065 ✭✭✭ otnomart

    I remember watching Vagabond years ago, and how raw it was.
    And then loved Faces Places, her being candid and mischevious in it. Her reactions to what happens with Godard is again so raw and real.

  • Moderators, Arts Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators Posts: 10,608 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Fysh

    I only heard of her with Sight & Sound's rdcent feature about Faces Places and her filmography. I'll be making an effort to watch Faces Places and the retrospective that Mubi have announced for her films, she sounds like possibly the most accessible of the New Wave filmmakers, which surely deserves more credit than she has until recently been given.

  • Registered Users Posts: 457 ✭✭ Smegging hell

    RIP. Was just thinking recently of picking up a box-set of her films.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,065 ✭✭✭ otnomart

    Just seen: Varda by Agnès.
    Her passion for real people and real stories is affecting. Will try to watch more of her earlier films now.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,571 ✭✭✭ vriesmays

    She made some awful stuff like Pointe courte and One sings.

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