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The study of film as art-form and as industry has become a popular and widespread element of French Studies, and French cinema has acquired an important place within Film Studies. Agnès Varda's reputation in Britain rests largely on a handful of major films, which are far from indicative of the scope of her work. Varda's best-known films come into the category 'fiction' with the exception of Jacquot de Nantes, and indeed they represent her entire fictional output with the exception of two fiction films released in conjunction with documentaries In 1994, Varda published a book about her life and work, Varda par Agnès, in conjunction with Cahiers du Cinéma. This book presents an overview of how her early interest in art history has had a great influence on her vision. Varda's background, before La Pointe Courte, was in the still image and the theatre. The sense of place is a constant throughout Varda's films. At different times she has explored the South of France and the châteaux of the Loire Valley, the streets of Paris or of Los Angeles. Varda's films show the still image to be connected to the object. Her œuvre is exceedingly varied, comprising documentaries and fiction films, short films and features, and also a large number which lie between the two, since Varda's care to give appropriate formal expression to what she has to say includes a determination not to add padding in order to make up for the required length.

The echoes of May

Cinema's engagement with 1968 was perhaps most in evidence in the auteur sector of the French industry. This book presents a study that aims to consider the ways in which the shake-up in French perceptions transferred itself to French cinema screens during the following decade. The emphasis is in the changes which occurred during the 1970s in the French output of films which could be seen by an average metropolitan cinema-goer without making such special efforts as joining a cine-club or seeking out films shown in community centres or to special interest groups. The most frequently noticed effect of the new post-1968 climate on the French cinema was a change in the nature of the thriller. The book focuses on three 1970s political thriller: série-Z, Yves Boisset's L'Attentat, and René Gainville's Le Complot. It looks at some films of the early 1970s which retain a consciously politico-social approach to their protagonists' problems, which conform to the broad description of 'new naturalism' in terms of narrative and protagonist. The 'New Naturalism' movement outlived its connection to 1968, and in the course of its development launched some of the most significant new film-makers to come to prominence in this decade, such as Jacques Doillon, Jean Eustache or Claude Miller. It concentrates on the two very different cinematic Utopias imagined by Claude Faraldo: Bof! and Themroc. The book also considers two film-makers: William Klein and Alain Tanner, whose work encapsulates many of the currents and issues.

This chapter explores who Agnès Varda is and what justifies her inclusion in a series of major French film-makers. It discusses the key concepts presented in the book. Varda's filmography is both long and varied, and, unusually, her career has alternated between fiction and documentary, with some films hovering somewhere between the two. Among the most significant of these are L'Opera-Mouffe (1958), Reponse de femmes (1976) and Ulysse (1982). In 1994, Varda published a book about her life and work, Varda par Agnès, in conjunction with Cahiers du Cinéma. As complicated and personal in structure as her films, the book reflects Varda's continuing interest in the written word as well as the image, and is indispensable to a study of her work. It was while presenting the second of the commissioned works, Du cote de la cote, at a festival in Tours that she met Jacques Demy.

in Agnès Varda

Still image and moving image often meet in Agnès Varda's films. This chapter presents a consideration of how this woman from a non-cinematic background approaches the craft of film-making generally. It explores how her literary interests, her artistic and photographic experience affect her concept of the film, and what does the act of film-making imply for Varda. Varda constructs a film, she says, as a writer constructs a text, and she has coined the term 'cinécriture' (ciné-writing) to describe her work. If we take Varda's definition of 'cinecriture' seriously, it means that her films will repay the closest reading possible, because the film-maker herself is aware of the implications of everything she does. The chapter also discusses Varda's approach to film-form, presenting a detailed analysis of the importance of the construction and significance of single images and their relationship to the movement of the film.

in Agnès Varda
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in Agnès Varda
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The sense of place is a constant throughout Agnès Varda's films. One strand of Varda's filmmaking consists in presenting the subjectivity of a principal character through her perceptions of her surroundings. This is the procedure adopted in L'Opéra-Mouffe and Cléo de 5 à 7, both films which could be described as 'the experience of being a woman in Paris.' In fact, all Varda's work up to Le Bonheur is posited on the relationship between protagonists and place, or, in the case of the two documentaries which she made for the Office Nationale du Tourisme, between film-maker and place. Varda's eye in Daguerreotypes was from the start more critical than it was in La Pointe Courte, where she took the part of the fishing community unreservedly. Her major films after Le Bonheur turned more towards smaller spaces and smaller groups.

in Agnès Varda

Throughout her career, Agnès Varda's interest in a specifically feminine cinema has been constant. She is one of the very few French réalisatrices who have been strongly involved in the women's movement: she has declared this involvement and explored it in her films. This chapter discusses five films chronologically, following Varda's evolving exploration of what does it mean to be a woman and how to represent the feminine. These include L'Opera-Mouffe, Cléo de 5 à 7, Réponse de femmes, L'Une chante, l'autre pas, and Sans toit ni loi. Varda's approach to the filming of femininity has grown increasingly complex over the years, reflecting both her developing understanding of the ramifications of the problem, and probably a growing sophistication in the debate on gender and representation.

in Agnès Varda
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The importance of time and memory is something which has always existed in Agnes Varda's work, but which has come to the fore much more visibly in her films from the 1970s onwards. This chapter deals with the ways in which both personal and social past act on the protagonists of Varda's worlds, the ways in which she evokes them and the significance she finally lends them. Ulysse is the first of Varda's films to take the theme of memory and passing time and to use it as the centre of an exploration of the work of image-making. With the advent of the 1990s, it seems that memory has returned to Varda's work and become its guiding principle and theme. The determination to turn an even potentially devastating process of grieving into life-affirming creation is perhaps what Varda means when she claims to have a 'bad relationship with memory'.

in Agnès Varda

Throughout the preceding analyses of Agnès Varda's films, the oscillation between objectivity and subjectivity has been a major and recurring theme. Not only does Varda link the 'document brut' (raw documentary footage) to 'ses réponses affectives ou rationnelles' (emotional and rational responses), but also to a 'histoire articulée' (constructed story), a presentable form which will allow the audience to see it differently. This chapter is concerned with the way in which the film treats the question of spectacle and performance, and its relation to direct experience. Varda's fiction films are remarkable for their absence of star actors. Although a constant preoccupation with budgets has to be taken into account, there is enough evidence to suggest that the absence is not a result of stars simply not being available. In other words Varda's interest in major actors is stirred most by their existence as human beings rather than their professional talents.

in Agnès Varda
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Agnès Varda is a very important and individual voice in the modern French cinema. This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the previous chapters of this book. Varda's career pre-dates the start of the Nouvelle Vague, and La Pointe Courte shows several of the characteristics which would make that movement famous, five years before its officially recognised start. Her œuvre is exceedingly varied, comprising documentaries and fiction films, short films and features, and also a large number which lie between the two. Together they form a body of work which has considerable formal and thematic coherence. Her films show a deep awareness of the signifying power of every element of the. Even in her most straightforward fictions, she is never concerned simply to tell a story, but always to reflect on the implications of events through the way in which they are presented.

in Agnès Varda