July 5, 2009

La Glaneuse

I had the pleasure of seeing Agnès Varda's new film last week, an autobiographical documentary titled Les Plages d'Agnès (The Beaches of Agnès). You should definitely see it if you have the chance.
I'm a pretty big fan of Varda's, thanks to a film professor from my year abroad in Paris. He loved loved loved Varda, and showed us not only her classics like Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond) and Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I) but also some of her newer and lesser-known short films, like Cinévardaphoto. He was a great film professor-- he wore jeans with patches of cameras and film reels sewn on them, and assigned us movies around Paris to go see as homework. The best assignment of all was to visit a gallery that was currently exhibiting some of Varda's video work, including two pieces featured in her latest film. I can't find the names of the pieces, but one was about potatoes (will make you laugh) and one was about widows (will make you cry). It was an especially fun outing because best friend Marina was visiting me at the time, and she tagged along to the exhibition. While we were there, Varda herself showed up. Apparently she likes to periodically check in on her work, and mingle with the visitors. She was just as wonderfully quirky and friendly in person as she seems on film, and took the time to explain some of her work to us. I have a vivid memory of listening to her speak and glancing over at Marina, who was nodding emphatically even though she couldn't understand anything that Varda was saying in French. At times, The Beaches of Agnès has the same effect. You probably won't catch every inside joke and reference, but Varda is able to present each moment in a manner that is emotional, captivating and a little bit magical. The opportunity to meet her means more to me than the time I got to meet Michael Jackson. But that's a blog post for another time...

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