Agnes Varda


Director, Screenwriter
Agnes Varda

About

Birth Place
Brussels, BE
Born
May 30, 1928

Biography

Agnes Varda is often called the "grandmother of the New Wave." Although not a member of the Cahiers du cinema critical fraternity which formed the core of this movement, the Belgian-born Varda completed her first feature, "La Pointe Courte," in 1954, five years before the New Wave's first films. With almost no academic or technical knowledge of film (though she had been a still photograp...

Family & Companions

Jacques Demy
Husband
Director. Together from 1959; married from 1962 until his death on October 27, 1990 at age 59; made such films as "Lola" (1961) and "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964).

Notes

"In my films I always wanted to make people see deeply. I don't want to show things, but to give people the desire to see." --Agnes Varda (from Sadoul's "Dictionary of Film Makers")

Biography

Agnes Varda is often called the "grandmother of the New Wave." Although not a member of the Cahiers du cinema critical fraternity which formed the core of this movement, the Belgian-born Varda completed her first feature, "La Pointe Courte," in 1954, five years before the New Wave's first films. With almost no academic or technical knowledge of film (though she had been a still photographer for Jean Vilar's Theatre National Populaire), Varda told two parallel tales (a structure inspired by William Faulkner's "Wild Palms"): the jagged romance of a young married couple and the struggles of the fishermen in the village of La Pointe Courte. Critic Georges Sadoul called this work "certainly the first film of the Nouvelle Vague" and it set the tone for Varda's career to come, combining fiction with documentary and also, in its debt to Faulkner, illustrating Varda's desire to expand the language of film. "I had the feeling," she said later, "that the cinema was not free, above all in its form, and that annoyed me. I wanted to make a film exactly as one writes a novel."

Unfortunately for Varda, "La Pointe Courte" (which was edited by Alain Resnais, who initially refused to work on it because Varda's techniques were close to those which he was developing) would be the only feature she would make in the 1950s. Although she lit the fuse under the New Wave, it was not until the explosive feature debuts of her male counterparts that Varda received another opportunity to direct a feature, "Cleo From 5 to 7" (1961), which established her as a significant talent on the international film scene. In "Cleo," the story of two hours of a woman's life as she waits to hear if she has cancer, we witness the emergence of a great Varda theme, borrowed from Simone de Beauvoir: "One isn't born a woman, one becomes one."

From her first film to her most recent projects, Varda has shown a strong connection to the Earth, becoming a kind of cinematic Mother Nature, whose characters have been personifications of wood and iron ("La Pointe Courte"), sickly trees ("Vagabond," 1985), animals ("Les Creatures," 1966) and food ("Apple" of "One Sings, The Other Doesn't" 1977). The world of Agnes Varda is one expansive Garden of Eden, where characters can live without the human burden of morality or sin, whether that world is the French Riviera (the short "Du cote de la cote" 1958), the city ("Cleo from 5 to 7"), or the country ("Le Bonheur," 1965; "Les Creatures," "Vagabond"). Varda knows that this Eden is a mythical place which exists only in the minds of her main characters and for this reason, her films also contain contrasting elements: troubled characters (the struggling fishermen of "La Pointe Courte" or the suicidal wife of "Le Bonheur") or less picturesque surroundings (the frozen landscape of "Vagabond").

Although Varda's initial impact on cinema was a powerful one, by the mid-1960s her career as a commercial filmmaker began to wane. After the improvisational and obscure "Lions Love" (1969), about an avant-garde woman director who goes to Hollywood, Varda completed only one more fictional commercial feature over the next fifteen years--the epic feminist tale of womanhood and motherhood, "One Sings, the Other Doesn't." She remained active by directing numerous shorts and documentaries, but much of her work went unseen or unnoticed.

It was not until the mid-80s that Varda reemerged in the commercial realm. While "Kung Fu Master!" (1987) was a misnamed and rather tentative story of the abortive romance between a middle-aged woman (Jane Birkin) and a 14 year-old video game buff (played by Varda's son Mathieu), "Vagabond," a documentary-style feature about a young French female wanderer, was arguably her best work to date. It dealt with all her major concerns: the independence of women, the coexistence with nature, the need for freedom, the acceptance of chance, the cyclical nature of birth and death, the personification of nature, and the seamless blending of documentary and fiction. Sadly the illness and death of Varda's husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy, helped to inspire her affectionate docu-valentine to his youth in "Jacquot/Jacquot de Nantes" (1992).

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

The Beaches of Agnes (2008)
Director
Cinevardaphoto (2005)
Director
The Gleaners and I (2000)
Director
The Universe of Jacques Demy (1995)
Director
One Hundred and One Nights (1995)
Director
The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993)
Director
Jacquot (1991)
Director
Le Petit Amour (1988)
Director
Jane B. par Agnes V. (1988)
Director
Vagabond (1985)
Director
Mur Murs (1981)
Director
Documenteur (1981)
Director
One Sings, the Other Doesn't (1977)
Director
Le Bonheur (1966)
Director
La Pointe Courte (1954)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (2018)
Herself
The Beaches of Agnes (2008)
Herself
The Truth About Charlie (2002)
The Gleaners and I (2000)
Herself
The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993)
Herself
Jane B. par Agnes V. (1988)
Herself

Cinematography (Feature Film)

The Beaches of Agnes (2008)
Cinematographer
The Gleaners and I (2000)
Cinematographer
The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993)
Cinematographer

Writer (Feature Film)

The Beaches of Agnes (2008)
Screenplay
Cinevardaphoto (2005)
Screenwriter
The Gleaners and I (2000)
Screenwriter
One Hundred and One Nights (1995)
Screenplay
The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993)
Writer
Jacquot (1991)
Screenwriter
Jane B. par Agnes V. (1988)
Screenplay
Le Petit Amour (1988)
Screenwriter
Vagabond (1985)
Screenplay
Mur Murs (1981)
Writer
Documenteur (1981)
Writer
One Sings, the Other Doesn't (1977)
Screenwriter
Le Bonheur (1966)
Screenwriter
La Pointe Courte (1954)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

The Beaches of Agnes (2008)
Producer
The Gleaners and I (2000)
Producer
Jacquot (1991)
Producer
Le Petit Amour (1988)
Producer
Jane B. par Agnes V. (1988)
Producer
One Sings, the Other Doesn't (1977)
Producer
La Pointe Courte (1954)
Producer

Editing (Feature Film)

The Beaches of Agnes (2008)
Editor
Cinevardaphoto (2005)
Editor ("Ydessa, The Bears, And Etc.")
The Gleaners and I (2000)
Editor
Jane B. par Agnes V. (1988)
Editor
Vagabond (1985)
Editor

Music (Feature Film)

One Sings, the Other Doesn't (1977)
Song

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (2018)
Other
The Beaches of Agnes (2008)
Other
Jane B. par Agnes V. (1988)
Other

Cast (Special)

Great Directors (2010)
Herself
Three Women Filmmakers (1987)

Misc. Crew (Special)

Great Directors (2010)
Other

Director (Short)

Black Panthers (1968)
Director
Fiances du Pont Macdonald, Les (1961)
Director
Du cote de la cote (1958)
Director
Diary of a Pregnant Woman (1958)
Director

Writer (Short)

Fiances du Pont Macdonald, Les (1961)
Writer
Diary of a Pregnant Woman (1958)
Writer
Du cote de la cote (1958)
Writer

Misc. Crew (Short)

Toute la Memoire du Monde (1956)
Other

Life Events

1947

While a student, became photographer for Theater Festival of Avignon

1951

Hired by Jean Vilar to be official photographer for Theatre National Populaire

1954

Debut as screenwriter, director and producer with "La pointe courte"

1977

Founded Cine-Tamaris, a production company, to produce "One Sings, the Other Doesn't"

Videos

Movie Clip

La Pointe Courte (1954) - Board Of Health! Still featuring only her uncredited actors, the real “habitants de La Pointe-Courte,” director Agnès Varda observes as Anna, Uncle Jules, Grandma and Grandpa confront the sneaky health inspectors about the shellfish catch, early in the New Wave progenitor, La Pointe Courte, 1954.
La Pointe Courte (1954) - Open, Out By The Fig Tree The opening from director Agnès Varda’s first feature, working on location in the neighborhood for which the film is named, in the city of Sète on the Western French Mediterranean coast near where Varda once lived, featuring for now only uncredited actors, “les habitants de La Pointe-Courte,” in La Pointe Courte, 1954.
La Pointe Courte (1954) - He's Never Been Sick A startling sequence from director Agnès Varda, who claimed to have seen almost no feature films at the time, and certainly none of the Italian neorealist titles which might seem pertinent, as tragedy strikes an unmarried mother of seven, all with non-professional actors, working in the fishing village for which the film is named, in La Pointe Courte, 1954.
La Pointe Courte (1954) - We're From Good Stock More exposition in writer-director Agnès Varda’s more conventional story line with her only professional actors, as Parisians Philippe Noiret and Silvia Montfort, whose names are never used, visit his home town on the southern coast, interacting with old friends, La Pointe Courte, 1954.
La Pointe Courte (1954) - Quai Du Mistral Director Agnès Varda, who before making this first feature had worked primarily as a professional photographer, gradually introduces her second story line with her only two paid actors, Philippe Noiret and Silvia Montfort, as a troubled Parisian couple visiting his hometown, shooting on location on the Mediterranean coast, in La Pointe Courte, 1954.
Cleo From 5 To 7 (1962) - For My Baby Doll Among the kookiest and most charming bits in any French New Wave film, director Agnès Varda brings Cleo (Corinne Marchand), awaiting her cancer test result, and friend Dorothèe (Dorothèe Blank) to see Raoul (Raymond Cauchetier), who’s screening a short featuring pals Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina, Eddie Constantine and Jean-Claude Brialy, in Cleo From 5 To 7, 1962.
Cleo From 5 To 7 (1962) - This Card Is Not Necessarily Death Director Agnès Varda’s unforgettable opening, the only color sequence in the film, Loye Payen doing the tarot reading for the title character, Corinne Marchand, from the feminist “Left Bank” and New Wave landmark Cleo From 5 To 7, 1962.
Cleo From 5 To 7 (1962) - Her And Her Hysterics Writer and director Agnès Varda signals her second chapter, as Corinne Marchand (title character), after an ominous tarot card reading, and awaiting the result of her cancer test, meets Angèle (Dominique Davray), whom we will soon learn is her maid, in Cleo From 5 To 7, 1962.
Le Bonheur (a.k.a. Happiness) -- (1966) - That's How To Speak To A Husband Carpenter Francois (Jean-Claude Drouot) arrives home outside Paris, where his wife (his real-life wife Claire, with their real kids) is taking in a dress-making job, and the next day to Vincennes, where he meets a telephone operator (Marie-France Boyer), in Agnes Varda’s Le Bonheur. 1966.
Le Bonheur (a.k.a. Happiness) -- (1966) - It'll Be A Bed Of Roses His second day at a job outside Paris, carpenter Francois (Jean-Claude Drouot) renews his acquaintance with telephone operator Emilie (Marie-France Boyer), who'll soon be moving to his town, their relations progressing quickly, in director Agnes Varda's Le Bonheur, a.k.a. Happiness, 1966.
Le Bonheur (a.k.a. Happiness) -- (1966) - Happy Father's Day Following musical and idyllic credits from director Agnes Varda, we meet Francois and Therese (Jean-Claude Drouot and his wife Claire, a non-professional in her only movie role) and their real-life children (Gisou and Pierrot), picnicking near the Paris suburb of Fontenay, opening Le Bonheur, 1966.

Family

Eugene Jean Varda
Father
Engineer. Greek.
Christiane Pasquet
Mother
French; came from Sete, a small seaport in the south of France near Montpellier; died in 1990.
Rosalie Varda
Daughter
Costume designer. Born in 1958; appeared as the 17 year-old Marie in "One Sings, the Other Doesn't" (1976); has designed costumes for Varda's and Jacques Demy's films as well as films including Jean-Luc Godard's "Passion" (1982).
Mathieu Demy
Son
Actor. Born in 1972; father, Jacques Demy; has appeared in films by both his parents, including Varda's "One Sings, the Other Doesn't" (1976) and "Kung Fu Master!" (1987) and as the voice of the small clown in Demy's animated film, "The Turning Table" (1988).

Companions

Jacques Demy
Husband
Director. Together from 1959; married from 1962 until his death on October 27, 1990 at age 59; made such films as "Lola" (1961) and "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964).

Bibliography

Notes

"In my films I always wanted to make people see deeply. I don't want to show things, but to give people the desire to see." --Agnes Varda (from Sadoul's "Dictionary of Film Makers")