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The Cinema of Agnès Varda

The Cinema of Agnès Varda: Resistance and Eclecticism

Delphine Bénézet
Series: Directors' Cuts
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Cinema of Agnès Varda
    Book Description:

    Agnès Varda, a pioneer of the French New Wave, has been making radical films for over half a century. Many of these are considered by scholars, filmmakers, and audiences alike, as audacious, seminal, and unforgettable. This volme considers her production as a whole, revisiting overlooked films likeMur, Murs/Documenteur(1980--81), and connecting her cinema to recent installation work. This study demonstrates how Varda has resisted norms of representation and diktats of production. It also shows how she has elaborated a personal repertoire of images, characters, and settings, which all provide insight on their cultural and political contexts. The book thus offers new readings of this director's multifaceted rêveries, arguing that her work should be seen as an aesthetically influential and ethically-driven production where cinema is both a political and collaborative practice, and a synesthetic art form.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85061-2
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Beginnings
    (pp. 1-8)

    The year is 1962 and Paris is full of young people ready to enthuse about the political and social changes afoot in Cuba. Among these young people are filmmakers Chris Marker and Agnès Varda and writers Michel Leiris, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Marguerite Duras. Many of these intellectuals collaborate with Cuban institutions such as the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC). Today some might frown at a film praising Castro’s dictatorship, but at the time, Cuba is a fresh new cause.Salut les Cubains!(1964) is a distinctive political documentary, mostly made of animated photographs that...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Agnès Varda: A Woman Within History
    (pp. 9-40)

    After almost sixty years behind the camera, Agnès Varda’s filmography may not include any box office blockbuster (althoughSans Toit ni Loireceived a Golden Lion in Venice in 1985), but it has earned her asuccès d’estime. After many years interacting with the audiences for her films and exhibitions, Varda is a well-known and established filmmaker at home (be it France or Belgium) and abroad. She has been fascinated by images for a long time, at least since she studied art history at the prestigious École du Louvre. Her interest turned into a profession when she started working as...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Aesthetics and Technique
    (pp. 41-70)

    ‘Une certaine tendance du cinéma franҫais’, Truffaut’s famous text published inLes cahiers du cinémain 1954, made the case for a new type ofauteurcinema, breaking away from the ‘tradition of quality’ (also called ‘cinéma de qualité’ and ‘cinéma de papa’) and its reverence to the screenwriter. This emphasis on theauteurrather than on themetteur en scéneprompted much debate. Andrew Sarris’s use of the term ‘auteur theory’ to discuss films produced by American studios also generated much criticism. ‘Predicated upon the recognition of the film director as the personality responsible for the aesthetic and artistic...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Varda’s Ethics of Filming
    (pp. 71-88)

    My objective in this chapter is to establish that Varda is a striking case ofcinéaste passeur. The previous chapter aimed to demonstrate thatauteurismis a valuable method when it adopts an encompassing definition of the filmmaking process. It also looked at how Varda subverts the concept ofauteurin order to make it her own. In the current chapter focusing on Varda’s ethics of filming, my attention is focused mainly on what dictates her decisions when creating a film or setting up an installation. Relationality and connections are concepts often associated with Varda’s work. In ‘Varda: The Gleaner...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Poetics of Space
    (pp. 89-110)

    Space is a fundamental aspect of Varda’s cinema, and one that both critics and the director herself have underlined very early on. Alison Smith, for example, devotes a whole chapter to ‘People and Places’ (1998: 60–91) and Kelley Conway more recently identifies geography and emotion among Varda’s perennial preoccupations (2009: 212). Varda has always been fascinated by space and writes that her work consists in capturing the light on inhabited landscapes to offer it up to the spectators of her films. ‘Entre […̣] dans mes films, c’est ouvert, il y a de la lumière, du moins celle des paysages...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Cinécriture and Originality
    (pp. 111-138)

    ‘Cinécrit par Agnès Varda’ is a caption that appears in many of her films and in an interview with Barbara Quart, she explains why for her this expression encapsulates the many possibilities of the cinematographic medium: ‘what I call in Frenchcinécriture[…] means cinematic writing. Specifically that. Not illustrating a screenplay, not adopting a novel, not getting the gags of a good play, not any of this. I have fought so much since I started, sinceLa Pointe Courte, for something that comes from emotion, from visual emotion, sound emotion, feeling, and finding a shape for that, and a...

    (pp. 139-144)

    Agnès Varda’s influence on the world of cinema cannot be fully understood from a limited set of canonical examples. One would need several books to do justice to the rich and elaborate production of this ‘cinéaste au féminin singulier’, but the emphasis placed here on mostly unexamined works and other visual productions highlights significant historical, cultural and political connections not typically associated with Varda. At the end of this journey, my hope is that her love of images, her willingness to embrace chance and unpredictable encounters, and her wit have also come through the various chapters of this book.


    (pp. 145-149)
    (pp. 150-158)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 159-160)