March 29, 2019 marked the passing of Agnès Varda (1928 – 2019), an influential, curious, and exceptional filmmaker whose career as an artist and filmmaker spanned over sixty years. She has often been called the “grandmother of the French New Wave,” and worked alongside fellow left bank filmmakers Chris Marker and Alain Resnais. Her films include the feminist portrait Cléo from 5 to 7, the bohemian Lions Love (…and Lies), tender portraits of her husband Jacques Demy, and thoughtful, essayistic examinations of her own life including Beaches of Agnés. As the art house community pays tribute to a filmmaker who touched our hearts, enlivened our cinemas, and helped us see the world with greater empathy and interest, we have prepared a guide of where to find some of her films so that you can share them with audiences and loved ones.
La Pointe Courte (1954) “The great Agnés Varda’s film career began with this graceful, penetrating study of a marriage on the rocks, set against the backdrop of a small Mediterranean fishing village. Both a stylized depiction of the complicated relationship between a married couple (played by Silvia Monfort and Philippe Noiret) and a documentary-like look at the daily struggles of the locals, Varda’s discursive, gorgeously filmed debut was radical enough to later be considered one of the progenitors of the coming French New Wave.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) “Agnés Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer (Corinne Marchand) set adrift in the city as she awaits test results of a biopsy. A chronicle of the minutes of one woman’s life, Cléo from 5 to 7 is a spirited mix of vivid vérité and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Le bonheur (1965) “Though married to the good-natured, beautiful Thérèse (Claire Drouot), young husband and father François (Jean-Claude Drouot) finds himself falling unquestioningly into an affair with an attractive postal worker. One of Agnés Varda’s most provocative films, Le bonheur examines, with a deceptively cheery palette and the spirited strains of Mozart, the ideas of fidelity and happiness in a modern, self-centered world.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Uncle Yanco (1967) “In her effervescent first California film, Agnès Varda delves into her own family history. The short documentary Uncle Yanco features Varda tracking down a Greek emigrant relative she’s never met, discovering an artist and kindred soul leading a bohemian life in Sausalito.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Lions Love (…and Lies) (1969) “Agnès Varda brings New York counterculture to Los Angeles. In a rented house in the sun-soaked Hollywood Hills, a woman and two men—Viva, of Warhol Factory fame, and James Rado and Gerome Ragni, who created and starred in the rock musical Hair—delight in one another’s bodies while musing on love, stardom, and politics. They are soon joined by underground director Shirley Clarke, playing herself as well as functioning as a surrogate for Varda. Lions Love (. . . and Lies) is a metacinematic inquiry into the alternating currents of whimsy and tragedy that typified late-sixties America.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Black Panthers (1968) “Agnès Varda turns her camera on an Oakland demonstration against the imprisonment of activist and Black Panthers cofounder Huey P. Newton. In addition to evincing Varda’s fascination with her adopted surroundings and her empathy, this perceptive short is also a powerful political statement.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Daguerréotypes (1975) “A compassionate portrait of Parisian shopkeepers.” Contact: Cinema Guild, tom(AT)cinemaguild.com
One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (1977) “Agnès Varda’s unsung feminist anthem is both a buoyant chronicle of a transformative friendship and an empowering vision of universal sisterhood. When seventeen-year-old Pauline (Valérie Mairesse) helps struggling mother of two Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard) procure the money for an abortion, a deep bond forms between the two, one that endures over the course of more than a decade as each searches for her place in the world—encountering the dawning of the women’s movement, dreamy boho musical numbers, and an Iranian adventure along the way. Initially divisive for its sunny, idealized view of female liberation, One Sings, the Other Doesn’t now seems all the more radical—and all the more vital—for its unabashedly utopian spirit.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Mur Murs (1981) “After returning to Los Angeles from France in 1979, Agnès Varda created this kaleidoscopic documentary about the striking murals that decorate the city. Bursting with color and vitality, Mur Murs is as much an invigorating study of community and diversity as it is an essential catalog of unusual public art.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Documenteur (1981) “This small-scale fiction about a divorced mother and her child (played by Agnès Varda’s own son) leading a quiet existence on L.A.’s margins was made directly after Mur Murs, and though Documenteur is different in form and tone from that film, the two are complexly interwoven, with overlapping images and ideas. This meditative portrait of urban isolation overflows with subtle visual poetry.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Vagabond (1985) “Sandrine Bonnaire won the Best Actress César for her portrayal of the defiant young drifter Mona, found frozen to death in a ditch at the beginning of Vagabond. Agnès Varda pieces together Mona’s story through flashbacks told by those who encountered her (played by a largely nonprofessional cast), producing a splintered portrait of an enigmatic woman. With its sparse, poetic imagery, Vagabond (Sans toit ni loi) is a stunner, and won Varda the top prize at the Venice Film Festival.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Jane B. for Agnès V (1987) “I’ll look at you, but not at the camera. It could be a trap,” whispers Jane Birkin shyly into Agnès Varda’s ear at the start of Jane B. Par Agnès V. The director of Cleo From 5 to 7 and Vagabond once again paints a portrait of a woman, this time in a marvelously Expressionistic way. “It’s like an imaginary bio-pic,” says Varda. Jane, of course, is the famed singer (“Je t’aime … Moi non plus”), actress (Blow Up), fashion icon (the Hermes Birkin bag) and longtime muse to Serge Gainsbourg. As Varda implies, Jane B. Par Agnès V.abandons the traditional bio-pic format, favoring instead a freewheeling mix of gorgeous and unexpected fantasy sequences.
In each, Jane inhabits a new character, playing a cat & mouse game with Varda as they explore the role of the Muse and the Artist, all the while showcasing the multifaceted nature of Birkin’s talent. “I’d like to be filmed as if I were transparent, anonymous, like everyone else,” says Birkin. But her wish to be a “famous nobody” is impossible to achieve; Birkin is simply too magnificent, too mesmerizing. Here, Varda’s signature mix of aesthetic innovation and generosity of emotion results in a surreal and captivating essay on Art, Fame, Love, Children and Staircases. For its first-ever U.S. theatrical release the film has been newly-restored from the original 35mm camera negative, overseen by director Varda herself. (In French with English subtitles.)” Contact: Arbelos Films, info(at)arbelosfilms.com
Kung Fu Master! (1987) “A lovely, bittersweet companion to Jane B. Par Agnès V. from director Agnes Varda and star/muse Jane Birkin, Kung-Fu Master! has nothing to do with martial arts – the film’s title comes from an arcade video game played obsessively in the film by a teenaged boy, Julien. Birkin delivers one of her finest performances as a lonely 40-year old woman who finds herself shattering taboos by falling in love with the 14-year old Julien – but is it romance, or a desperate attempt to turn back time in the face of middle age? Kung-Fu Master! is truly a family affair: Varda’s son with the late director Jacques Demy, Mathieu Demy, plays Julien – and Birkin appears here with her two real-life daughters: Charlotte Gainsbourg (from Lars von Trier’s Melancholia) and Lou Doillon, her child with well-known filmmaker Jacques Doillon. Briefly released in the late 1980s in the U.S. and long unavailable here, Kung-Fu Master! has been beautifully restored from the original 35mm camera negative. “It’s a film in which all the younger actors are the children of the director and lead actress” says Varda. “It was like a picnic, you know?” (In French with English subtitles.)” Contact: Arbelos Films, info(at)arbelosfilms.com
The Gleaners and I (2000) “Along the French roads she travels, Agnès meets with many gleaners. These people, men or women, are gatherers, recyclers, genuine treasure hunters. Out of necessity, chance or choice, the gleaners deal with what others have discarded. Their world is an astonishing one that has nothing to do with that of the ancient gleaners: these peasant women who gathered the wheat left behind after the harvest. Agnès is a gleaner too and her documentary film is a subjective one. There is no age for curiosity. Making films is also a sort of gleaning.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Cinévardaphoto (2004) “A triptych of short films exploring the power and vitality of the photograph. In Ydessa, The Bears and Etc., Varda discovers a haunting exhibit of found photos, each showing a teddy bear. With Ulysses, she deconstructs a picture from her early career as a photographer. While the exuberant Salut les Cubains uses still photos to capture the spirit of the Cuban revolution’s early days.” Contact: Cinema Guild, tom(AT)cinemaguild.com
The Beaches of Agnès (2008) “A reflection on art, life and the movies, The Beaches of Agnès is a magnificent film from the great Agnès Varda, director of The Gleaners and I and Cleo from 5 to 7, a richly cinematic self portrait that touches on everything from the feminist movement and the Black Panthers to the films of husband Jacques Demy (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and the birth of the French New Wave.” Contact: Janus Films, booking(at)janusfilms.com
Agnés Varda: From Here to There (2011) “A five part documentary series that chronicles the indefatigable filmmaker’s travels around the world, meeting friends, artists and filmmakers for an expansive view of the global contemporary art scene. Whether in Los Angeles or St. Petersburg, Lisbon or Mexico, Varda finds herself talking with Alexander Sokurov, sharing a meal with sculptor Christian Boltanski and his partner artist Annette Messager, visiting with Chris Marker at his home, or dancing with Manoel de Oliveira. Each encounter is infused with the director’s characteristic insight, inquisitiveness and wonder….A joyous celebration of life, art and people.” Contact: Cinema Guild, tom(AT)cinemaguild.com
Faces Places (2017) “89-year old Agnes Varda, one of the leading figures of the French New Wave, and acclaimed 33 year-old French photographer and muralist JR teamed up to co-direct this enchanting documentary/road movie. Kindred spirits, Varda and JR share a lifelong passion for images and how they are created, displayed and shared. Together they travel around the villages of France in JR’s photo truck meeting locals, learning their stories and producing epic-size portraits of them. The photos are prominently displayed on houses, barns, storefronts and trains revealing the humanity in their subjects, and themselves. Faces Places documents these heartwarming encounters as well as the unlikely, tender friendship they formed along the way.” Contact: Cohen Media Group
MUBI is presenting The Beaches of Agnés, Jacquot de Nantes and Salut Les Cubains as part of the loving homage Adieu Agnés Varda “A small tribute to a grand figure who has just left us at the age of 90: Agnès Varda. Godmother of the French New Wave, prolific auteur, nimble innovator, and constant inspiration as an artist and a person, Varda was one of the most important artists of the cinema. During her expansive, illustrious career, she made an endlessly eclectic array of feminist cinema, ranging from playful documentaries to subversive fictions.”
** This is a particularly sad farewell for many members of the community, please be patient as distributors respond to your requests.
** We are still seeking information about theatrical rights for Jacquot de Nantes, The Young Girls Turn 25, A Hundred and One Nights, and The World of Jacques Demy, if you handle U.S. distribution for these films please contact us.