Varda by Jon – Part 10: Jacques Demy

One of my favourite cinematic surprises of 2020 was the documentary Dick Johnson is Dead. Director Kirsten Johnson, as a means of processing the deterioration of her father's health and eventual passing, sets up several mostly fantastical scenarios in which Dick might die. Dick himself seems game to have some fun, demonstrating the trust, respect and love the filmmaker and subject have for each other. The film is alternately silly and painful as you track Johnson’s emotional journey through the process. This brings us to the complicated relationship between Agnès Varda and Jacques Demy.

Varda by Jon – Part 9: Jane B

If I've found a recurring theme to the work of Agnès Varda, it would be a curious empathy. Over and over again, Varda’s ability to notice people on the margins of society results in interesting subject matter for her art. As it becomes increasingly clear we live in a world lacking in empathy, Varda’s artistic impulses end up benefitting humanity. Certainly, it’s hard to conceive of how they could betray her, especially as it relates to an “aging” actress.

Varda by Jon – Part 8: No Shelter

The problem of evil is typically relegated to cosmic and philosophical concerns, and the centuries of continually progressing debates do not speak well for any particular theodicies that have been presented so far. But that frustration doesn't necessarily subside on the other side of religious belief. A worldview (religious or otherwise) that provides meaning can be very appealing. Consequently, events that don't fit within the structure of that view can feel threatening to one's sense of stability, and should be ignored if possible.

Varda by Jon – Part 7: Her Body, Herself

Didacticism in art can be tricky to pull off well. You can have a band like Rage Against the Machine, whose politics are notoriously and very obviously left-wing, get co-opted by their political opponents who can’t see the irony in their choices. Even successfully didactic art is subject to taste, because some people don’t find a lecture all that inspiring. While the ideal balance between art and education isn’t always the same for every project, it does need to be considered. This week’s batch of movies finds Agnès Varda, no stranger to directness, pushing that balance in interesting ways.

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