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.
For all of the struggles that Agnès Varda would experience with the Hollywood establishment in the context of her career as a filmmaker, she never let those experiences go to waste. Indeed, the majority of her “California” work was produced over a couple of trips, one in 1968 and another in 1979, and was borne out of professional and even personal challenges. The first trip in 1968 saw Varda trying to get a film project off the ground while her husband Jacques Demy similarly was attempting his own Hollywood breakthrough. The second trip in 1979 saw Varda set out by herself (and her son) on a film project that would almost immediately collapse.