image from Varda by Agnès
In 1955, Agnès Varda kickstarted the French New Wave with her debut feature La Pointe Courte, and for the next six decades she remained at the cutting edge of international cinema, continuing to innovate, experiment, and explore right up until her death one year ago at age 90. In tribute to her shining legacy, Cornell Cinema presents a selection of Varda’s documentary films, a format she would periodically revisit throughout her life, culminating in her final film, Varda by Agnès, an imaginative autobiography and bittersweet parting gift, summing up her six-decade career.
Cinevardaphoto is a collection of three short films by Varda all centered around photography: Salut Les Cubains recalls Varda’s early career as a photographer, assembled as a montage of 1,800 photographs from Cuba; Ydessa, the Bears and etc. roams a Toronto exhibition of thousands of teddy bears; and Ulysse has Varda revisiting the models for one of her earliest photographs. Agnès Varda found California to be fertile ground for filmmaking, and produced a few films during her extended stay there. Short films Uncle Yanco and Black Panthers each bring Varda’s compassionate, inquisitive eye to the subject matter: in Yanco, Varda meets up with a Greek relative living on a houseboat in Sausalito, and in Panthers, Varda interviews the imprisoned Huey P. Newton and attends a “Free Huey” rally in Oakland. With Mur Murs, Varda uses the colorful murals adorning buildings scattered throughout LA to investigate the city’s social, racial, and economic tensions. In Daguerreotypes, Varda used the length of an electrical cord to determine the radius of her subject matter: the shopkeepers of the picturesque rue Daguerre, Varda’s home for more than fifty years.
Varda’s greatest success came late in life, with her first digitally-shot feature, The Gleaners & I. This documentary about the people who live off the world’s leftovers ushered in a newly productive period in Varda’s life, including numerous autobiographical documentaries and gallery installations as well as the coronation of Varda as the free-spirited auntie of cinema.
Cosponsored by the French Studies Program.