The Beaches of Agnes Screen 14 articles

The Beaches of Agnes

2008

The Beaches of Agnes Poster
  • Beaches doesn't quite dance through the space-time continuum as provocatively as did Cinévardaphoto's citizens of 1962 Cuba, and it assumes rather a lot of foreknowledge of Varda's cinematic works, but in moments like that mobile cinema-rickshaw, it breathlessly escapes time.

  • It’s the kind of film a less charitable critic might call indulgent; yet why shouldn’t a filmmaker write her own life story on the screen rather than the page? As with any autobiography, the author’s passions and blind spots are all there for us to see, and despite the expected amount of immodesty coursing through it, “The Beaches of Agnès” is a mostly enchanting troll down memory lane.

  • The way that this endless series of marvellous images and events evokes the famous fairy tale of the Thousand and One Nights is not accidental. Agnès Varda’s unclassifiable new film Les plages d’Agnès (2008) enchants us in the same way that Scheherazade may have bewitched her powerful sultan. In this new succession of fascinating events and unforgettable protagonists, Agnès V. seems inexhaustible in her recounting of reminiscences, associations, dreams and insights.

  • The image - and implicitly, the past - once again becomes tangible and relevant, re-animated by the curious and impassioned eye of an ageless spirit.

  • The images are as delightful, unexpected and playfully uninhibited as Ms. Varda, perhaps the only filmmaker who has both won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and strolled around an art exhibition while costumed as a potato (not at the same time).

  • In a sense, Varda has done for herself what she did for Demy [with Jacquot de Nantes]—creating a work, as charming as it is touching, that serves to explicate and enrich an entire oeuvre.

  • Some of Varda’s flourishes are so on-the-nose that they’re corny. She’s aware that they’re corny; the corniness is the point, and her comic timing is impeccable... It’s semiotics as vaudeville. The wry but never overweening tone tells us that Varda is not just aware that she’s mediating our perception of her life and art, the act of mediation is the film’s true subject.

  • In the past twenty years, she has devoted herself most often to explorations of Demy's work and her own, and even the history of cinema itself. Not many artists could get away with going over the same ground again and again, but Varda is blessed with a rare spontaneity, speed of thought and a charm that never cloys (see especially her hilarious "dance of the camera lens" in The Gleaners and I {2000}).

  • On the occasion of her 80th birthday, Agnès Varda, the woman sometimes referred to as the “grandmother of the French New Wave,” decided to turn the camera back on herself. The Beaches of Agnès was the result: sprawling, spry, and ever curious, like the filmmaker herself, it revisits a life that, for over 50 years, has been inextricably linked to the cinema that shaped it.

  • Through this performance, Varda frames an undeniably heartfelt and emotionally direct film, and one that is all the more affecting because distanced through the subject’s wry self-awareness. It is this distancing, from the start, that allows Varda to be so intensely personal...

  • “It all happened yesterday,” [Varda] tell us, in those four words evoking [her birthday party] and also the 80 years of her life. “It’s already in the past, a sensation imbued instantly in the image, which will remain. While I live, I remember.” And we too will remember her in her images and ourselves through them as well.

  • Les Plages d’Agnès is a film of density, contradictions and provocations. Varda allows both what she shows and what she hides to reflect herself with the same accuracy as the mirrors she props and balances on the sand reflect the constantly changing face of the sea.

  • The emotional core of the film is Varda’s life with her husband, the director Jacques Demy (who died in 1990), who, even now, continues to inspire her. Uninhibited about sex, generous in her affections, worldly-wise, blending tender recollections with self-deprecating antics, Varda, free from fear and shame, turns her tale of a life lived in art into a work of art in its own right, and one of her best—a rapturous tribute to life itself.

  • This is a sprawling, experimental, autobiographical project structured around a series of art exhibits, dramatic recreations and installations. . . . To borrow from André Bazin, film is “preservation of life by a representation of life.” So too is The Beaches of Agnès. It is Varda’s attempt to capture and preserve something of herself on film, in her own terms.

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