The Beaches of Agnès 2009
Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
DVD, color, 88 min.
College - Adult
Biography, Film Studies, Women’s Studies
Date Entered: 01/13/2010Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA
Now in her eighties, French filmmaker Agnès Varda has been making movies for more than five decades. Born in Belgium, Varda began her career as a photographer but transitioned fairly quickly into making her own motion pictures. Her first film, La Pointe Courte, was made in 1956 when she was 27 years old. It is now recognized as one of the earliest examples of what would become the French New Wave cinema movement of the late 1950s and 1960s. Characterized by realism as well as experimental filming and editing techniques, some of Varda’s critically acclaimed narrative films include Cleo from 5 to 7, Vagabond, and The Gleaners and I. An early feminist, Varda was one of a small handful of women filmmakers in European postwar cinema. Her works have not always been commercial successes; however her artistic contributions are widely recognized and include the recent receipt of the French government’s Legion d’honneur award
In this delightful autobiographical essay, Varda traces her personal and creative life from her childhood to the present day. The film opens on a beach in France where Varda and her crew are setting up a scene for filming. With the very loose unifying theme of internal and external environments, she tells the audience that she is a plump and talkative woman who feels tied to beach landscapes. Incorporating interviews, live action and dream sequences, archival photographs, and footage from hers and contemporaries’ works along with her thoughts about human existence and cinema, the movie is much more than standard documentary fare. In telling her story using the same artistry, skill and techniques by which she is known, she succeeds in making a movie that is at all times entertaining and interesting. Admirers and those who may be unfamiliar with her films will thoroughly enjoy this window into the life and work of a charming and remarkable woman. Highly recommended.