What does being a woman really mean? How do women live the status society reserves for them? A group of women, beautiful or not, young or not, gifted with motherly instinct or not, answer before Agnès Varda's camera.
While in San Francisco for the promotion of her last film in October 1967, Agnès Varda, tipped by her friend Tom Luddy, gets to know a relative she had never heard of before, Jean Varda, ... See full summary »
"I'll look at you, but not at the camera. It could be a trap," whispers Jane Birkin shyly into Agnès Varda's ear at the start of JANE B. PAR AGNES V. The director of CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 and ... See full summary »
Strippers in Manhattan are being stalked and maimed by a psycho-killer. A conflicted ex-boxer-turned-talent-manager and his business partner and friend, who represent some of the girls, set out to find him before he strikes again.
Billy Dee Williams,
An off-screen narrator ushers us in a house for rent, the camera shows us around while a mini-history is enacted. This is Varda constructing an entry to where we can have storytelling about life. Already it means that we enter life as a narrator's hearsay, story. At this point it's in territory Greenaway was mastering at the time using inspiration from Resnais, fiction about our place within walls of it.
We're told about the previous occupants, a doctor and his blonde wife and how something terrible befell them. This is an opportunity to have various vignettes around the house, nothing more, all pointing to the inanity, the small despairs and neglects of middle-class life. A daughter suffocates. None of it much interesting or ever less than obvious. Varda would carry some of these threads over to Vagabond.
So this is one of the two things Varda likes to do, narrative wandering. How well she does this depends on if she's able or lucky to anchor it on an image that has some resonant truth on its other side. It's the same thing Herzog sought in islands about to explode, ecstatic truth. She can do this in so many ways and each project is so much about where she finds that. Daguerrotypes, Documenteur and Ulysse show three different ways to anchor.
Patient viewers may pick up on her attempt to create one here and this is as revealing as if she had actually done it.
There are two nonactors here, old women both of them. One she places naked among a surrealistic piece so she just becomes part of a decor. But the other she interviews for a few seconds. It's not clear what the woman raves about wide-eyed and whether scripted or part of something Varda coaxed out of her. The vignettes have playacting, clear-cut sense. This would be a way for us to truly see loss and bewilderment. It doesn't work but you can see the glimmer. Varda perhaps couldn't make it work or was just content to sketch and move on.
But she does the other thing ever so well, which is haunt by what the image leaves open. She's so masterful at this always.
We travel around the house, eavesdrop on scenes, enter rooms, wander down empty halls while a wind roars outside the windows and makes the trees ripple, a more primordial nature outside the narrative walls. Our eye wanders, sense diffuses.
It becomes atmosphere without a stronger resonance to hold it, but it's never just atmosphere for Varda, any more than for Herzog or yes even Hooper. It's a meditative, tantric thing - a way to have a body in a way that humdrum life with its distractions doesn't let us.
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