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Ciné Varda

One of the most influential and inventive artists of the French New Wave, Agnès Varda (b. 1928) has created a remarkable body of films that playfully and insightfully dance between, and beyond, the traditional categories of fiction and nonfiction, poem and prose, cinema and photography. A ceaselessly prolific artist whose most recent film, Les plages d’Agnès, was completed in 2008, Varda’s films are inimitably varied yet deeply complementary, united around the idea of the film essay which Varda pioneered, together with her close friends and occasional collaborators Alain Resnais and Chris Marker. The high points of Varda’s long career are equally marked by narrative features such as Cleo From 5 to 7 as by ruminative film essays such as The Gleaners and I and those works like Vagabond that ambiguously blend fiction and documentary.

Varda studied art history and photography before turning to film at the age of twenty-five. Incredibly, she had no experience behind the camera when she began directing her first film, La pointe courte, and admits to having only seen about twenty movies prior to making her own. She married the filmmaker Jacques Demy in 1962, a partnership that lasted until his death in 1990 and resulted in two films about his life, Jacquot de Nantes and The World of Jacques Demy.

Varda coined the term cinécriture, or “cine-writing,” to describe her unique method of filmmaking, whereby every aspect of the film is carefully planned in order to extract the greatest possible resonance from the juxtaposition of image and sound and the overall rhythm of the film defined by its editing structure. The result is a combination of the highly subjective and the sociological, providing Varda with the opportunity to simultaneously indulge in the documentary impulses that have fascinated her throughout her career – shooting on the streets, using non-professional actors to play roles similar to themselves – while crafting intricate and moving stories involving fictional characters whose stories are reflected in and enhanced by the documentary details picked up by Varda’s ever inquisitive eye.

The Harvard Film Archive is proud to welcome Agnès Varda for four nights, including a very special screening of her new film, Les plages d’Agnès.


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