12th Aug2019

‘Varda by Agnes’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Features: Agnès Varda, Sandrine Bonnaire, Hervé Chandès, Nurith Aviv, Esther Levesque | Written and Directed by Agnes Varda


Varda by Agnes is directed by, and follows the filmography of, the late Belgian/French auteur Agnes Varda – from her early short film work in 1954 to her last feature film Faces Places released in 2018. Agnes’ last feature film is a poignant and captivating unravelling of an unparalleled force within the cinematic realm. An enlightening and foreboding feature that examines and discusses the career of a unique and deeply missed cinematic treasure.

Even at the ripe old age of ninety Agnes is a seismic screen presence with incredible charisma. She is a complete delight on-screen throughout the two hours running time with inspiring anecdotes and incredibly rich insight into her filmmaking process and development as a filmmaker. The jolliness and honesty Varda brings to the proceeding is magically immersive and engaging with its audience. It undoubtedly helps to be somewhat aware of Agnes Varda’s history in the medium of cinema, but the film is structured more so as an academic examination of the auteurs’ work, and therefore the viewer can watch this at any level of intrigue, aficionado or not, and be engulfed by its story.

The documentary/academic study of Varda’s work is a magnificent piece of investigation. Varda goes in-depth on multiple areas of how a specific film of hers is crafted, ranging in regards to the use of mirrors and her exploits in digital media throughout her distinguished career. Specific styles and visual shots implemented in features such as Vegabond and Cleo from 5 to 7 are just two examples of Varda’s work that are re-orchestrated and examined with the director’s first-hand discussion in real-time.

Any enthusiasts of the more academic examination of the characteristics of cinema will be transfixed, but Varda does not exclude those who are here for more intrigue in the directors more personal characteristics. The feature touches upon her private life and acceptance and understanding of morality and death – specifically an emotionally ladened climax in which Varda discusses her ideal ending to her own story — provided with a chilling albeit beautifully acute circumstance that will demand a few tears from the audience.

Varda by Agnes is on limited release across the UK, courtesy of the BFI.


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