Saturday, October 20, 2012

Agnes Varda Tribute

Agnès Varda is a Paris-based photographer and film director and a key figure in modern film history. She is much revered across the globe for her deconstruction of the documentary form and her boundary-pushing work. In a career spanning 57 years, Agnès Varda, is one of the most original and renowned of the French ‘New Wave’ directors; in fact she is the only female director associated with it – her early films anticipating the work of Godard and Truffaut.

Beaches of Agnes 2008
Antenna Documentary Festival, in collaboration with the Alliance Francaise, the French Embassy and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, presented a tribute to this legendary French filmmaker on October 13th.  The films screened in 35mm (what a treat!). A special  thanks to AGNSW Curator and projectionist Robert Herbert ; and thanks to Antenna for inviting me to introduce the films: Beaches of Agnes
Here's an extract from my intro:  In The Beaches of Agnes we are in the mind of an Elder who is ‘essaying’: she weighs up her own life, pays tribute to her lovers, friends, family and colleagues. She time travels back into her own films – and into Demy’s films. It is a tribute to cinema – to the nouvelle vaugue, to documentary, to fiction, to imagination, to creativity. There is a great freedom in this film – everything is possible – as in a Melies film. It is magic, the stuff of dreams.
and an extract from my introduction to The Gleaners and I:

Varda plays with representation – from Millet’s painting – which serves as visual metaphor and foundation text – and she transforms it into her own film text of gleaning. She pushes beyond the surfaces of Millet’s three gleaners and his framing – to blow open the edge of frame and ‘essay’ into her film’s themes; and she gives us herself and her gleaners in fleshy reality.

The people actually filmed in The Gleaners – and the way she films with them – is worth thinking about.  How does Varda achieve such a special quality in her interviews? – a feeling of compassion and intimacy – a sense of shared humanity. Varda says this: 

“The people I have filmed tell us a great deal about our society and ourselves.  I myself learned a lot as I was making this film.  It confirmed my idea that documentaries are a discipline that teach modesty”. 

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