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La Pointe Courte (1955)

La Pointe-Courte (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 4 January 1956 (France)
There are two parts to this film: sequences of life in the fishing village of La Pointe Courte (a government inspector's visit, the death of a child) alternate with others following a ... See full summary »

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Cast

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...
Lui
Silvia Monfort ...
Elle
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Storyline

There are two parts to this film: sequences of life in the fishing village of La Pointe Courte (a government inspector's visit, the death of a child) alternate with others following a couple - He is from La Pointe Courte, she is Parisian - coming to terms with their changing relationship. Written by Alison Smith <mla22@cc.keele.ac.uk>

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4 January 1956 (France)  »

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La Pointe Courte  »

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1.37 : 1
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Director Agnès Varda made the film for roughly $14, 000. All the money went towards renting equipment and film, none of the actors or crew members were paid. See more »

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Varda is a genius. This movie is unique.
31 January 2016 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

La Pointe Courte (1955) was shown in the U.S. with its original French title. It was written and directed by Agnès Varda.

Although this was Varda's first film, she already had the uncanny knack of knowing how to film intensely personal moments, how to film small group discussions, and how to film crowd scenes. She wanted to write about the village of La Pointe Courte, but instead decided to make a movie. She borrowed money, and she made this movie. Clearly, she was a genius, and we can see that when we watch to film.

The acting in the film was at a high level. Most of the actors were nonprofessionals, who lived in the fishing village of La Pointe Courte.

However, the two leads: Philippe Noiret as Lui, and Silvia Monfort as Elle, were professional actors. (Although Noiret went on to become one of France's most popular actors, this was his first major role. Monfort was a professional who, by 1955, had already worked in theater and cinema.)

What makes the movie unique is that it blended one plot--an ethnographic vision of the small fishing village--with another very personal plot. In the latter plot, Noiret and Monfort play a married couple who have come from Paris to La Pointe Courte, where the husband was born. They are having an existential crisis. That always sounds pretentious, but I really think it fits in this case. Husband and wife are questioning their nature as individual human beings, their relationship as a couple, and whether they still truly love each other.

They rent a room in La Pointe Courte, and then they talk. (Remember, this is a French film--an early example of what became the French Cinematic New Wave . That means the couple don't kiss, they don't make love, they don't fish or swim--they talk about their relationship.)

Meanwhile, on the ethnographic side of the film, the people live hardscrabble lives because their income depends on the uncertainties of fishing. They are in a constant cat-and-mouse game with the public health authorities and the police, because they sometimes fish in contaminated water. As one character says, "Yes, the water is contaminated, but I haven't heard of anyone dying because they ate our fish."

The good news is that the villagers help one another. It's clearly a cooperative situation, and that's how they survive. However, their life is hard, and they're always one step away from disaster.

Philippe Noiret, even as a young man of 25, gives us the first view of the talent that he developed over the years. Monfort was his equal as an actor. She was 32 when the film was completed, but looked no older than Noiret. She had an unusual beauty, unlike the perfect beauty of Catherine Deneuve. In fact, Monfort looks like an actor Ingmar Bergman would have chosen to star in one of his films.

People have pointed out that some of the shots in La Pointe Courte resemble Ingmar Bergman's work. The fact is that Bergman's film Persona, which clearly has some similar shots, was completed in 1966, 11 years after Varda's film. My compliments to Bergman, who had the genius to recognize greatness in another director.

In many ways, the French Cinematic New Wave was a cooperative enterprise. The great director Alain Resnais was the editor of La Pointe Courte. Resnais had trained as an editor, but was already directing his own films in 1955. We can't tell how much his expertise helped fledgling filmmaker Varda, but my guess would be that his contribution was substantial.

We saw this film as part of an Agnès Varda retrospective in the wonderful Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. It would be better to see it on the large screen. However, if that's not an option, see it on the small screen. This film is both an aesthetic pleasure and a movie of historical importance. If you love cinema, this film is a must!


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