Famous or not, a life worth knowing ["The Beaches of Agnes"]
A biopic sounds like a movie that knows it's meant to sell laundry detergent and dating services. It sounds like a way to substantiate why a person is famous. A memoir sounds like something warmer, like a window into why a person is that person.
“The Beaches of Agnes” is more than a cinematic memoir. It is a work of art about a working artist. At 80 years of age, Agnes Varda documents the fact and spirit of her life. At 80 years of age, she is still pixie cute and keenly interested. Her pursuits nestle in the fullness of the generations born of the man who was her peer as well as her husband.
Who is Agnes Varda? I have not seen any of the films she directed (more than 40). I don't think I even recognize any of the titles (“Vagabond,” “The Creatures,” “Cleo from 5 to 7”). Devotees of French filmmaking probably know of Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, and perhaps Varda's husband Jacques Demy (most famous for “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”).
An accomplished photographer before she became a filmmaker, Varda worked with and amongst the “French New Wave” of filmmakers in the 1950s and 60s. She shared their innovative approach to realism, which included making films quickly and inexpensively. They were known for helping each other realize their creative visions.
Varda was known as an experimenter, and this is evident from the start of “The Beaches of Agnes” as she adds mirrors to a simple setting of sand and sea and wind. Her life is informed by boats and fishing nets, by art history and by civil strife … and by her family. She never seems to lose touch with reality, even in a beach set on a city street.
Strolling the beaches of Varda's intertwined life and art grows more satisfying as the film progresses.
Who is this bold yet humble, playfully serious Agnes Varda? See “The Beaches of Agnes.”