Monday 1 April 2019

Agnès Varda (1928–2019)

Less than a week ago I wrote a few words about the death of Scott Walker, and since then we've learned that another cultural heavyweight has left us.  Agnès Varda, the Belgian filmmaker who contributed so much to the French New Wave and beyond, died of cancer on Friday.  Varda was a prolific director who busied herself to the very end - her latest film Varda by Agnès premiered less than two months ago, and her 2017 documentary Faces Places was nominated for an Oscar and can now be viewed on Netflix.

Varda was a maker of both narrative films and documentaries, but actually never seemed happier than when she was occupying that opaque space between the two - see Jacquot and Jane B. by Agnès V. for prime examples.  She was married to the legendary French director Jacques Demy, whose frequent cinematic forays into fantasy worlds stood in sharp contrast to the pragmatic non-fictional cinema Varda was so fond of.  It is now nearly 30 years since Demy died, and the widowed Varda worked hard to maintain her late husband's legacy, overseeing restorations and re-releases of the likes of Lola and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

A full decade ago, I reviewed Varda's then-current The Beaches of Agnès for the print version of Holland Focus.  You can view a washed-out scan of that article here; now, as then, I'd recommend that you give this excellent film a look.  Like Demy, Agnès Varda was a true giant of cinema, and our screens will be much poorer without her.

Darren Arnold

Image: Le Pacte