Last year, we lost a true icon. Agnès Varda passed away at the age of 90 and her parting gift was her documentary Varda By Agnès, a self-made tribute to a career unlike any other. This trip down memory lane is a curtain call but also a guided tour: from La Pointe Courte and Cléo From 5 To 7 to Faces Places via Vagabond, the French New Wave filmmaker takes you by the hand and through her unorthodox oeuvre. She discusses her life, ambitions and the challenges she had to face.
On paper, it might sound like a rather stale exercise, but in practice, Varda By Agnès is captivating. It feels whimsically décousu, a sensation only heightened by the warm and witty conversational nature of her narrational style. However, her cheeky asides hide a carefully crafted collage, one that benefits from an added poignancy: the film feels like a knowing goodbye. Varda even said so much herself at last year’s Berlinale, where the film premiered, stating that she had to prepare herself to “say goodbye and go away.” Not many filmmakers out there would have the talent or the audacity to make a movie that functions as both a career introduction and an on-your-own-terms conclusion.
For novices, this is the perfect place to start: a Best Of compilation that’ll hopefully serve as a gateway doc for further discoveries. For fans, grab a tissue and rush to see this touching farewell.
Varda By Agnès | Directed by Agnès Varda (France, 2019). Starts Feb 6.
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