Agnes Varda, still making waves
Agnes Varda, irrepressible octogenarian — “say I’ll be 85 in May” — and filmmaker whose 1954 feature debut, La Pointe-Courte, precipitated New Wave cinema, is artist-in-residence at the University of Pennsylvania this week, dispensing wisdom, teaching master classes and sharing some of her 33 films, including her 2009 cine-memoir, The Beaches of Agnes.
Here’s what she had to say about her career when I had a sit-down with her earlier in the week. It occurred to me that she is among the oldest filmmakers currently active (Alain Resnais, who was the editor of La Pointe-Court is a few years older, and the indefatigable Manoel de Oliveira is 100-plus years) although her vitality and vivacity is that of someone a fraction of her years. I just listened to her teach a master class at Scribe Video Center where my favorite question came from an aspiring documentarian who asked, “It always seems that you’re teaching your subject. How do you achieve that effect?” Varda shrugged and answered, “Possibly it’s the handheld camera?”
Your favorite Varda? I have three: Cleo from 5 to 7, Vagabond and The Beaches of Agnes. Alternatively, which filmmakers has Varda influenced? I’m thinking the Dardennes Brothers and Claire Denis.