In Honor of Agnes Varda
Agnes Varda, the legendary Belgian film director, was recently awarded one of the most prestigious film awards. On May 24th on the Closing Ceremony of the 68th Festival de Cannes, Agnes became the first woman to win an honorary Palme d’Or. The award goes to renowned directors whose works have achieved …
Agnes Varda, the legendary Belgian film director, was recently awarded one of the most prestigious film awards. On May 24th on the Closing Ceremony of the 68th Festival de Cannes, Agnes became the first woman to win an honorary Palme d’Or. The award goes to renowned directors whose works have achieved global impact and it has only been given out three times: to Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, and Bernardo Bertolucci.
In celebration of this historical event, we are taking a peek back at her career and highlighting one of Varda’s most acclaimed films,Sans toit ni loi or Vagabond (1985).
Agnes Varda made her debut feature, La Pointe Courte in 1954, which is often considered the unofficial first French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) film. When she made it, she had no professional cinema training (her early work included painting, sculpting, and photojournalism). The film’s success allowed Varda to get commissioned to direct a series of documentaries. In 1962, she released her second feature film, the seminal Nouvelle Vague film Cléo from 5 to 7; a bold and innovative character study. Over the coming decades, Varda became a force in art cinema. She has filmed more than 30 short, documentary and fiction films for both TV and cinema, as well a staging many exhibitions of photographs and art installations. Here’s a look at Vagabond.
Vagabond begins with the film’s heroine, Mona Bergeron (Sandrine Bonnaire), found frozen to death in a ditch in the French countryside. Through a series of flashbacks we see Mona’s life unfold in the weeks leading up to her death. Mona travels from place to place, taking odd jobs and staying with whomever will offer her a place to sleep. She is fiercely independent, craving for freedom no matter the consequences. Mona’s journey is revealed through long shots of the camera beside Mona, and face-on testimonies of those she encounters along her path.
The investigative structure of the film is an attempt to reconstruct the final days of Mona’s life through what Varda describes as “pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that is inevitably incomplete” and reveals more about the people who talk about her than about Mona herself, who remains a mystery.
In a clever promotional tagline for the film “She’s cute, she stinks, and she won’t say thank you,” Varda, asks the audience, “Would you offer her a lift?” The film is part of the Criterion collection and available through Hulu Plus.
Here’s a clip from the film: