A lecture on the exhibition at the Cinematheque Française
celebrating the career of the only woman among the film directors of the French Left Bank and New Wave movements, Agnès Varda (1928-2019)
(until 28 January 2024)
with Sylvie Koneski
The film director Agnès Varda holds a very special place in the history of French cinema. The only woman among the very macho group of the French New Wave directors (Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer…) she became famous after the release of her second feature film Cléo de 5 à 7, a bitter-sweet, fast-paced, existentialist film, that follows a young singer, Cléo, from 5 to 7p.m in her peregrinations through Paris, as she waits to hear the results of a medical test that will possibly confirm a diagnosis of cancer.
Her films aim at documentary realism and address women’s and social issues in a distinctively experimental style. She was one of the pioneers of location shooting and the use of non-professional actors. Director Martin Scorsese once described Varda as "one of the Gods of Cinema".
She was married to French director Jacques Demy (The Umbrelllas of Cherbourg), was a close friend of Jim Morrison’s, worked with some of the more militant actresses of French cinema – Delphine Seyrig, Jane Birkin, Sandrine Bonnaire – had love affairs also with women – the ceramicist Valentine Schlegel – raised her children as a single mother, and also spent time in Hollywood, where she met the young Harrison Ford and made two of her American documentaries Black Panthers (1968) and Wall, walls (1981) on Chicano murals.
Our lecture will focus on her long career as cinema director but also photographer, social critic, pioneering feminist – she was one of the 343 women who signed the 1971 Manifesto of the 343 admitting they had had an abortion - and a woman of a remarkable artistic and personal freedom.
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