Criterion Prediction #221: Varda by Agnes, by Alexander Miller
Title: Varda by Agnes
Director: Agnes Varda
Cast: Agnes Varda, Sandinne Boinnaire, Nurith Aviv
Synopsis: Varda’s final film is equal parts cinematic elegy and charming look at her career as an artist both on and off-screen.
Critique: The work of Agnes Varda somehow exceeds our definition of authorship; if you say you admire her films, it’s no different than airing your admiration for Varda herself. In the one-way conversation we often have with screen artists; we can glean what a director is saying, the relationship they have with their stories, their political leanings, and so forth. However, Agnes (see, we’re on a first-name basis) is so personally integrated with her work, whether it’s her documentaries or fictional narratives her personality is spilling over into every facet of each feature. The set-up is pretty simple: Varda by Agnes features Agnes in her director’s chair, on stage, rapping about her career, integrating footage from her movies. And yet this assembly evolves into a casually engaging, living collage of life, cinema, politics, and the artistic pursuit, Agnes is our guide and she’s an open book, her legacy is no different, which is why her work is engaging, personable and enriching. Her features include shorts, previously made, or film shorts during the production of another movie that may or may not crop up later on in her filmography. Varda’s an active participant in her documentaries, whether she’s turning the camera directly on herself or gleaners, foragers, artists, or even her late husband Jacques Demy in his dying years.
All of her footage binds into an intertwining harmony, thus creating a free-flowing cinematic language coined entirely by Varda but accessible to all. Varda by Agnes is analogous of a legendary career, a career that is so casually varied, diverse and prolific. Agnes Varda is one of the few auteurs whose role in cinema is that of an open figure, willing to engage in a receptive way that deconstructs the reputation of the artist as an unapproachable elusive figure.
Why it Belongs in the Collection: It seems like at least once a year The Criterion Collection absorbs a newly minted arthouse film, the recent release or Cuaron’s Roma before that Let The Sunshine In, 24 Frames, Personal Shopper, Certain Women. Naturally, Varda’s no stranger to The Criterion Collection, maybe we can hope for a box set and her previous DVD titles will get a Blu-Ray upgrade, along with Varda by Agnes.