Agnès Varda has passed away. The world of cinema is in mourning. From the selection of her first short film, Ô saisons, ô châteaux, in 1958, to her 2018 speech calling for pay equity when 82 women in cinema protested on the Red Carpet, Ms. Varda’s keen, mischievous and demanding intellect was a mainstay at the Festival. In 2015 she received an Honorary Palme d'or. This pioneer of New Wave filmmaking, and wife of Jacques Demy, captured the passage of time with poetry and humanity. On the occasion of this award, she sent us a letter in which she gave an overview of her life and work.
THE THREE LIVES OF AGNÈS VARDA
Born in Ixelles, Belgium, in 1928 to French parents, Agnès Varda spent the early years of her childhood in Belgium with her four siblings. In 1940, the war caused her and her family to move to the South of France. Her teen years were spent in Sète and then Paris, where she completed upper-secondary school before taking courses at the École du Louvre and night classes in photography at the École de Vaugirard.
She has lived in Paris since 1951, on Rue Daguerre in the 14th arrondissement.
She was married to filmmaker Jacques Demy, who passed away in 1990.
With him, she raised Rosalie Varda-Demy, a costume designer and then artistic director, and Mathieu Demy, an actor and director.
In the 1950s, Agnès Varda became a photographer for the Avignon Festival, created by Jean Vilar, and the Théâtre National Populaire, where performers included the likes of Gérard Philipe, Jeanne Moreau and Philippe Noiret.
Photojournalism in China, Cuba, Portugal and Germany, as well as personal photography.
In 1954, five years before the New Wave, Agnès Varda created Ciné-Tamaris, a production company, for her first feature film, La Pointe Courte. This film would later earn her the title of “Grandmother of the New Wave”.
Among the 36 films Agnès has written and directed there are shorts and features, documentaries and works of fiction. Her most famous works are Cléo from 5 to 7 (1961), Vagabond (1985), Jacquot de Nantes (1991), The Gleaners and I (2000), The Beaches of Agnès (2008) and Agnès de-ci de-là Varda (series, 2011: travels and encounters with artists).
Films selected for the Festival de Cannes:
-In Competition: Cléo from 5 to 7 in 1962
-Out of Competition: Jacquot de Nantes in 1991, The Gleaners and I in 2000, a restored version of Cléo from 5 to 7 at Cannes Classics in 2012.
-Selected for Un Certain Regard: Mural Murals in 1981, Ulysse in 1983, The Young Girls Turn 25 in 1993.
A lesson in cinema in 2001.
Juror for the Competition at the Festival de Cannes in 2005
President of the Caméra d’or jury at the Festival de Cannes in 2013.
Silver Bear in Berlin and Louis Delluc Prize for Le Bonheur, Golden Lion in Venice for Vagabond, César award for Ulysse in 1984 and for The Beaches of Agnès in 2009, European Film Award for The Gleaners and I in 2001 and The Beaches of Agnès in 2009.
César award in 2001, René Clair cinema award from the Académie française in 2002, Carrosse d’Or from the SRF in 2010, Leopard of Honour award from the Locarno Film Festival in 2014, Lifetime Achievement award from the European Film Academy in 2014.
Agnès Varda began her life as a visual artist in 2003 at the Venice Biennale. Her work includes installations, videos and photographs.
Patatutopia; The Widows of Noirmoutier; The Noirmoutier Triptych; Paroles de squatteurs; Bouches du Rhône; Le Puzzle des 5 bacheliers; Zgougou’s Tomb; Ping-pong, tong et camping; The Immense Sea and The Immense Little Sea; The Greenhouse of Happiness, which was constructed using film reels.
Varda’s work in the following collections:
The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, the MOMA in New York, the Paul Valéry Museum in Sète, the Fondation Bernard Magrez, the FRAC Lorraine, the CAFA Art Museum in Beijing and the Hubei Museum of Art in Wuhan, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, etc.
Agnès Varda’s work today combines, alternates and creates a mise en abyme of her vision and practice of photography, cinema, video and space.
After her Honorary Palme d’or, the filmmaker, photographer and visual artist, who never ceased to reinvent herself, returned to Cannes notably for Faces Places, a documentary featuring her travelling in the company of the artist JR. Last year we had the pleasure to see her present, with her characteristic enthusiasm, a restored version of One Sings, the Other doesn't at the Cinéma de la plage.
Agnès Varda at Cannes