Varda by Agnès (5 stars)

Varda by Agnès

Agnès Varda's final film looks over her legacy and forms a fitting farewell

A pioneer of the French New Wave and member of its Left Bank group, Agnès Varda was always curious, creative and empathetic. She played by her own rules and in this reflective documentary – her final film, made shortly before she passed away in March this year – the 90-year-old director delivers a masterclass on her unique approach to cinema, art and photography.

It begins with Varda's personalised director's chair positioned in front of a cinema screen; the red curtains are drawn as the audience wait in anticipation of one of her lectures. When she emerges, it's to deliver another typically playful insight into her mind that acts as a fantastic introduction to her work for newbies and a lovely walk down memory lane for the already initiated. It's also a beautiful tribute to the joy of the shared cinema experience, as Varda explains in her own words: 'You don't make films to watch them alone, you make films to show them. An empty cinema: a filmmaker's nightmare!'

She carefully charts her career in two parts: her analogue filmmaking in the 20th century and how that changed in the 21st century with the more widespread availability of digital technology. She makes a stop halfway through to chat about her political photographs and short films, where she documented the career of Fidel Castro and the Black Panther movement. Varda interviews many of the people she worked with, such as Vagabond's Sandrine Bonnaire, and her regular DoP and fellow filmmaker Nurith Aviv.

The director mischievously considers not only her successes but her box office failures, like One Hundred and One Nights – sharing delightful behind the scenes stories about working with Robert De Niro and Catherine Deneuve and how proud it made her to place the screen legends side by side on film. And, with that, she leaves us with the eternal wisdom that the lows are just as important as the highs. By tracing her cinematic journey, this charming documentary proves it, as it lays out Varda's rich legacy of visual storytelling, or 'cinécriture' as she coined it. A fitting farewell.

Selected release from Fri 19 Jul.

Varda by Agnes

  • 5 stars
  • 2019
  • France
  • 1h 55min
  • Directed by: Agnès Varda

Reflective documentary, the final work of the late filmmaker who passed away in March 2019. Varda charts her career, delivering insights into cinema and her mind, as well as a beautiful tribute to the joy of the shared cinema experience. A charming and fitting farewell.