Film critic Rickey delivers the definitive biography of French filmmaker Agnès Varda.
…a must for cinephiles.”

— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Available Aug 13, 2024

A Complicated Passion

The Life and Work of Agnès Varda

The first major biography of the French filmmaker hailed by Martin Scorsese as one of the Gods of cinema.”

Over the course of her sixty-five-year career, the longest of any female filmmaker, Agnès Varda (1928 – 2019) wrote and directed some of the most acclaimed films of her era, from her tour de force Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), a classic of modernist cinema, to the beloved documentary The Gleaners and I (2000) four decades later. She helped to define the French New Wave, inspired an entire generation of filmmakers, and was recognized with major awards at the Cannes, Berlin, and Venice Film Festivals, as well as an honorary Oscar at the Academy Awards.

In this lively biography, former Philadelphia Inquirer film critic Carrie Rickey explores the complicated passions” that informed Varda’s charmed life and indelible work. Rickey traces Varda’s three remarkable careers — as still photographer, as filmmaker, and as installation artist. She explains how Varda was a pioneer in blurring the lines between documentary and fiction, using the latest digital technology and carving a path for women in the movie industry. She demonstrates how Varda was years ahead of her time in addressing sexism, abortion, labor exploitation, immigrant rights, and race relations with candor and incisiveness. She makes clear Varda’s impact on contemporary figures like Ava DuVernay, Greta Gerwig, Barry Jenkins, the Safdie brothers, and Martin Scorsese, who called her one of the Gods of cinema. And she delves into Varda’s incredibly rich social life with figures such as Harrison Ford, Jean-Luc Godard, Jim Morrison, Susan Sontag, and Andy Warhol, and her nearly forty-year marriage to the celebrated director Jacques Demy.

A Complicated Passion is the vibrant biography that Varda, regarded by many as the greatest female filmmaker of all time, has long deserved.

Available Aug 13, 2024

Praise for A Complicated Passion

  • …a must for cinephiles.

    Film critic Rickey delivers the definitive biography of French filmmaker Agnès Varda (1928 – 2019)…Rickey captures Varda’s tenacity and pluck, serving up a portrait of an artist determined to succeed on her own terms.”

    — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • Varda mania has fully arrived

    Varda mania has fully arrived — and stands to continue with this new biography from Carrie Rickey, a former film critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who shows how the French New Wave filmmaker’s life inspired her deceptively light meditations on the passage of time, women’s rights, and more.”

    — Art in America

  • A richly documented examination of this visionary filmmaker’s influential career

    A richly documented examination of this visionary filmmaker’s influential career…[P]roviding colorful anecdotes from friends and luminaries in Varda’s orbit…[and] depicting her subject’s trailblazing influence and unique cinematic vision embracing creativity, spontaneity, and willingness to tackle provocative issues through an uncompromising body of work.”

    — Kirkus Reviews

  • Finally, the definitive biography

    Finally, the definitive biography of a filmmaker whose place in the cinematic pantheon keeps ascending. Carrie Rickey’s writing is vivid and colorful, her judgments judicious and astute, her research impeccable, and she captures Agnès Varda’s spirit, her achievement, her uniqueness in the very act of analyzing her. One could not ask for a smarter or more engaging take on the subject.”

    — Phillip Lopate, editor of the Library of America’s American Movie Critics

  • the irresistible story of an indomitable woman!

    Agnès Varda possessed an almost superhuman degree of talent and hustle, and as Carrie Rickey vividly shows in A Complicated Passion, she would need it all to make her way in a man’s world. Rickey’s portrait is an enthralling blend of personal and contextual history, stylistic analysis, penetrating insights into the films, a humming awareness of the electric combination of Varda and her husband, director Jacques Demy — all during the most exciting and innovative period of French cinema. This is biography and film scholarship at their combined best — the irresistible story of an indomitable woman!”

    — Molly Haskell, film critic and author of Frankly, My Dear

  • A landmark achievement

    A landmark achievement, this deeply engrossing biography of Agnès Varda, the first ever in the English language, fills a major gap in film history, chronicling the life and career of one of world cinema’s most gifted writer-directors. Carrie Rickey’s brisk, jaunty style lends itself perfectly to her peripatetic and multitalented subject.”

    — Noah Isenberg, film historian and best-selling author of We’ll Always Have Casablanca