Directed by Agnes Varda - 6/15
A pioneering legend in the French New Wave movement of the 1950s and '60s, director Agnès Varda passed away on March 29, 2019 at age 90, leaving behind a legacy of influential experimental films focused on women's issues and social justice.
Born Arlette Varda in Brussels, Belgium in 1928, she was the daughter of a Frenchwoman and an engineer of Greek heritage. Varda received a degree in literature and psychology from the Sorbonne in Paris and began her career as a still photographer and photojournalist. She began making films in 1954 and was quickly recognized as an auteur with a great influence on the New Wave; she was later dubbed "the mother" and "the grandmother" of the movement.
In 1962, Varda married director Jacques Demy, and they were together until his death in 1990. She continued making films for theatrical release and television until her death and won numerous international awards including an honorary Academy Award in 2018.
TCM's tribute focuses on three works from the early part of Varda's career, including her first film La Pointe Courte (1955), which is also being screened as part of our series "The Essentials." The film tells of a young couple (Silvia Monfort and Philippe Noiret) who examine their troubled marriage while visiting the fishing village in the south of France that provides the film's title. The scope of the film broadens as it considers problems faced by the local community. Varda's combination of fiction and documentary elements was considered experimental and original, and she later recalled that, partly because she was a young woman at the time, her film hit the cinematic community "like a cannonball."
Du Côté de la Côte (1958), also known as Along the Coast, is one of several documentary shorts directed by Varda in the years following La Point Courte, which did not perform well at the box office despite its brilliance. Varda was commissioned by the French office of tourism to make this 25-minute film, which on its surface is a travelogue about the Côte d'Azur. Despite the beautiful scenery and colorful cinematography, however, the tone is ironic and at times humorously sarcastic.
Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), Varda's second feature-length film, follows a pop singer named Cléo (Corinne Marchand) through roughly two crucial hours in her life as she awaits the results of tests that will determine whether she has cancer. Again mixing documentary and dramatic content, the film has a feminist viewpoint as it considers the perception of women in society and the ways in which they are objectified. Making guest appearances in a silent film watched by Cléo and other characters are Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina, Eddie Constantine and Jean-Claude Brialy. Composer Michel Legrand, who wrote the film's score, plays "Bob the Pianist."
by Roger Fristoe