Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Agnes Varda, RIP

Agnes Varda has died at the age of ninety:

Agnès Varda, a groundbreaking French filmmaker who was closely associated with the New Wave — although her reimagining of filmmaking conventions actually predated the work of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and others identified with that movement — died on Friday morning at her home in Paris. She was 90.

Her movie Vagabond sometimes still haunts my dreams.  Another reviewer of her work agrees:

That year, one of her most critically and commercially successful films, “Vagabond,” about a dangerously unsettled woman, was released in the United States. I distinctly remember being freaked out by “Vagabond,” which opens on the corpse of Mona (a blazing Sandrine Bonnaire), a drifter who freezes to death in a country ditch. Raw, opaque yet also deeply moving, the film tracks her as she wanders from place to place, person to person, alone and finally unknowable. She’s a startlingly uncommon cinematic creation, partly because she is a woman who says no, including to other people.
Varda said she didn’t know why Mona repeatedly said no, a refusal that ends in death. I see “Vagabond,” in part, as a tough, unsentimental exploration about the limits of radical independence for women, which is perhaps what gives it the autobiographical aspect that runs through her movies.
That whole review is well worth reading, including this little snippet which, to me, speaks of the odd and possibly unintended way women so often end up erased when later history is written:

In the early 1980s, she spoke about being omitted from history books and from special issues of Cahiers du Cinéma dedicated to French cinema. “I was just plain forgotten,” she said. She kept going even if, as she admitted in 1986, with each film she had “to fight like a tiger.”
Such potential erasure is particularly troubling in the field of film directing where women are so very rare.  This post is my tiny contribution to fighting it!