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.

Varda by Jon – Part 6: In California

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.

Varda by Jon – Part 5: Married Life

If Agnès Varda could be described as an observant person, that focus of perception would strike especially true for the neighborhood where she lived for most of her adult life: the Rue Daguerre in Paris. The early 70s were a relatively fallow period for Varda artistically...Fortunately a German production company reached out with an offer to let her make any kind of movie she wanted. Varda decided to make a movie within that community circle, with her focus on the shopkeepers of Rue Daguerre.

Varda by Jon – Part 4: Rue Daguerre

If Agnès Varda could be described as an observant person, that focus of perception would strike especially true for the neighborhood where she lived for most of her adult life: the Rue Daguerre in Paris. The early 70s were a relatively fallow period for Varda artistically...Fortunately a German production company reached out with an offer to let her make any kind of movie she wanted. Varda decided to make a movie within that community circle, with her focus on the shopkeepers of Rue Daguerre.

Varda by Jon – Part 3: Around Paris

In the supplemental materials for this box set, Martin Scorsese tells a story of being mildly intimidated by the presence of Agnès Varda who was visiting his film set. He was asked to tell which of her films was his favourite, and he stammered out Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962). Varda apparently lightly chided him, saying that's what everyone says. She has a point too, as when she passed in 2019, anyone reflecting on her importance as a filmmaker would usually cite this as the film to watch. Personally, I have regarded this film at a respectful distance, but I think on third viewing and with a lot of reading up, I'm ready to call this a film I enjoy.

Varda by Jon – Part 2: Early Varda

In the distant past of April 2020, Chris and I dove deep into an episode of our podcast Cinema Dual on the films of French filmmaker Agnès Varda. Though technically not my first experience with Varda, that week of watching Varda's movies was eye-opening, to such an extent that when Criterion announced they were going... Continue Reading →

Varda by Jon – Part 1: Agnès Forever

In the distant past of April 2020, Chris and I dove deep into an episode of our podcast Cinema Dual on the films of French filmmaker Agnès Varda. Though technically not my first experience with Varda, that week of watching Varda's movies was eye-opening, to such an extent that when Criterion announced they were going... Continue Reading →

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