Whether in front of the camera or behind it, Agnès Varda was a visual storyteller who eschewed convention and prescribed approaches to drama. In her final film, she offers a personal insight into her oeuvre, using excerpts from her work to illustrate her unique artistic visions and ideas.
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The history of art is filled with late pleasures that coincidentally seem to comment on the death of the artist who made it. But once in a while you encounter a piece that seems like a premeditated farewell—a conscious summing-up of the life and work—whether or not it was intended that way. “Varda by Agnès” is that kind of movie.
Varda's ultimate film is such an engaging and deeply moving autoportrait of the filmmaker giant at the very end of her life, as she tells stories and annectotes about her vision, her work and what/who has mattered to her. The woman is visionary, child-like, passionate and so generous. How not to love her!
There was no way I wasn't going to absolutely adore this, Varda's final film. But watching this in a packed theatre with a happy crowd made this a truly wonderful cinema experience. Woman next to me kept taking notes and I wanted to do the same, being inspired by Varda sharing stories of her life and filmmaking ethos. Maybe it is just a glorified lecture (that Vagabond insert though!), but what a gift. Viva Varda.
Follows a lecture/talk format with bits of flashback and clips from Varda's projects. Could not help but tear up during the film's closing scene.
I do not recommend you see this film if you intend to watch Cleo or her other films but haven't gotten around to it. You're bound to see spoilers.
I can't separate this film/visual lecture from the context in which I saw it: its world premiere in Berlin, Varda present, regaling us with stories of her life less than 2 months before her death. When I remember that day I feel silly for feeling sad, because I'm reminded how no-one treated ageing & death with the lightness of Agnès. I'm sure she would sympathise with my sadness. But I'm not sure she would share it.
Cinema. How long was Varda doing this movie, this one or any other? True, she created her own discourse and system, recreated herself in that discursivity, but that does not prevent, however sympathetic she was/is, that her systematization should not be acknowledged and noted.
It's a nice enough send-off or introduction to the late filmmaker, but if you've actually bothered to follow her career, watch her films or even her previous autobiography, Les Plages d'Agnès, you won't find much stuff you already know, and the high quality transfers of old movies will just make you to watch them instead. Like a brand-new best-of album that merely updates the previous one.
The end. And the ending of the ending is the ending of all endings. You couldn't set out to do better than that. VARDA BY AGNÈS has a title that invokes another of the master's films, one w/ Jane Birkin, who I am modelling my middle-age after (more thanks due Varda there than I previously knew). This final testament also shares an ontological precept w/ VAGABOND: there is no original self, only the reconstruction.