Directed by: Agnes Varda
Countries & Regions: France
Region: Region 2
Released: 5 October 2009
Cat No: ART460DVD
Screen ratio 1:1.78
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The Agnes Varda Collection: Volume 1
Four films by Agnès Varda, the French director widely acknowledged to have paved the way for the French New Wave with her debut film, ’La... Read More
Agnès Varda is the godmother of the nouvelle vague and this is a superb introduction to an extraordinary career that now stretches over half a century.
Released in 1954, La Pointe Courte is widely acknowledged as the first film of the French New Wave. Its debt to neo-realism is evident in Paul Soulignac and Louis Stein's candid footage of the Mediterranean fishermen struggling to make a living in the face of a contamination scare. But Varda opts for a discordantly stagy approach in chronicling returning native Philippe Noiret's naive bid to rescue his marriage to chic Parisian Silvia Monfort. This jarring juxtaposition (reinforced by editor Alain Resnais) emphasises the filmicness of the action and Varda proved equally experimental with Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962), which rigorously avoided narrative linearity as cinematographer Jean Rabier follows Corinne Marchand through the streets of Paris, as she chat with strangers and even breaks into song with Michel Legrand to pass the time while awaiting the results of some medical tests. There's even a film-within-the film starring Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.
Alternating between features and documentaries, Varda endured mixed fortunes in France and the United States over the next few years.
Subsisting in the lower depths was proving no easier by the time Varda made the exceptional documentary, Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse, in 2000. By establishing the historical precedent for salvaging discarded items for survival, pleasure and creativity, Varda imparts some dignity to the hand-to-mouth existence of her subjects. However, the canvases by Van Gogh, Breton and Millet and extracts from such film classics as Alexander Dovzhenki's Earth (1930) cannot disguise the ignominy of the gleaners' daily struggles or Varda's dismay at a civilisation that wastes as blithely as it marginalises.