Agnès Varda has in recent years become something of an internet phenomenon. Newly discovered by a younger generation, she has not only reached the status of a beloved icon, but also everyone’s favourite grandma.
It makes sense, then, that after the success of Faces Places, where she traversed the French countryside with visual artist JR, taking pictures of people and installing enormous black-and-white prints in the landscape, Varda wants to open up the rest of her prolific oeuvre to a newfound audience. Varda by Agnès achieves that with Varda’s customary wit and humour, but it also makes for a lovely self-curated retrospective of her work for those who are already familiar with it.
Varda addresses her audience quite literally: the film is built around a series of talks and lectures she has given, both to the public and to film students in particular. Taking centre stage, she sits comfortably in her chair in various settings, taking the viewers through her illustrious career. She explains her techniques and decisions, showing not only film excerpts, but also works from her early years as a photographer, and explains her transition into visual art, in which she recycles some of her film material in inventive new ways.
Rather than sticking to a chronological structure, her approach in this is much more associative. She revisits memories and locations, speaks fondly about potatoes, and elaborates on her love for digital video: happy to embrace new technology around the turn of the century, she points out that small and portable cameras allow her to get closer to people.
The film has a comfortably intimate atmosphere, inviting its audience to settle in and enjoy Varda’s words of wisdom. But Varda by Agnès is more than a pleasant stroll down memory lane: rather than leaving the writing of her story up to others, Varda makes a bold statement by taking authorial control herself, focusing on what she wants to be remembered for.
CAST: Agnès Varda
DIRECTOR: Agnès Varda
WRITER: Agnès Varda
SYNOPSIS: Agnès Varda takes a seat on a theatre stage. In this film, she offers insights into her oeuvre, using excerpts from her work to illustrate her artistic visions and ideas.