Monday, December 21, 2009

Films photographers would love: The Beaches of Agnes Varda

Agnes Varda, who has the distinction of being the "grandmother of French New Wave"* made a documentary (sort of) looking back on her life. In the film, she speaks directly to you about memories of her childhood in WWII occupied France, her loves, her amazing Paris home, film making, her art installations, and her neighbors and friends and especially her family. She's doe-eyed through it all, taking an equal interest in mundane things that have inspired her (the flea market scenes make me want to get a passport immediately) to the monumental things that have not (a trip to her childhood home). At 81, Agnes Varda is that kooky and brilliant, yet calming friend that you want to have brunch with at least once a month. I saw it yesterday at the Angelika. You should check out the film, too...anyhow...

The trailer captures the wackiness about the film accurately, but don't let it be off-putting, this feature most definitely has meat on its bones.

I took interest in the fact that she started out as a portrait photographer. Her photographs are threaded throughout the film, punctuating her decades old love affair with documenting people and places, continuing to this day.

On photography she noted that once she 'let go of the oppression of being in-focus' (I'm paraphrasing, but it's close) she felt free to be more expressive in her photographs. I particulary connect with her love of the blurry foreground. Makes my heart pound just thinking about Varda talk about composition and process.

* She told the tale of her traipse with French New Wave like this: 'Breathless' came out and was a huge success. The production company asked Godard if he new of anyone who could make an urban black and white film cheaply and quickly (to capitalize on the popularity of Godard's style) and he passed along the name of his good friend Agnes. Agnes Varda made her second feature film, 'Cleo de 5 a 7', in response and it garnered a nomination for a Palm D'or at the Cannes Film Festival 1962. Pas mal!

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