one-night event showing of The Beaches of Agnès [Les plages d’Agnès] .
Co-Sponsored by the Women & Gender Studies Program at Canisius
Ticket Information: Free and Open to the Public
• Stop in early for FREE Breadhive granola while supplies last! •
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courtesy of The Cinema Guild:
A reflection on art, life and the movies, The Beaches of Agnès is a magnificent film from the great Agnès Varda, director of Cleo from 5 to 7 and The Gleaners and I, a richly cinematic self portrait that touches on everything from the feminist movement and the Black Panthers to the films of husband Jacques Demy and the birth of the French New Wave.
When one thinks of the major figures of postwar cinema, the name Agnès Varda immediately springs to mind. Her body of work in both fiction and documentary is defined by a wealth of innovation and imagination. Irrepressible and enquiring, she is a force of nature, and even at eighty shows no signs of slowing down. Her new film is a reminder that there are few artists capable of such eloquence in cinema.
Varda takes beaches as her point of departure. Though she was not born near the ocean, she would travel to the seaside every Easter and summer during her childhood, and her memories of these trips act as a springboard for the film’s meditation on her early life. She recalls her wartime exile to the coastal village of Sète as a period of endless fun and life jackets. While a young adult, Varda began her career as a photographer before raising a family with her husband, Jacques Demy (best known for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and eventually turning to filmmaking. Returning to Sète over a decade after the end of the war, she used the locale and its fishermen as the backdrop for her remarkable first feature film, La Pointe Courte.
Varda weaves photographs, vintage footage, film clips, and present-day sequences into a memorable voyage through her life, during which she confronts the joy of creation and the pain of personal loss, death and aging. It is a singular trip played out against the exciting context of the postwar explosion of cultural expression in France. She knew everyone: her colleagues in the French New Wave, the Black Panthers in California and even Jim Morrison, who would visit when in Paris. Idiosyncratic, engaging and deeply moving, The Beaches of Agnès is a journey through an extraordinary artistic life.
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“I’m not interested in seeing a film just made by a woman – not unless she is looking for new images.”
The only female director of the French New Wave, Agnès Varda has been called both the movement’s mother and its grandmother. The fact that some have felt the need to assign her a specifically feminine role, and the confusion over how to characterize that role, speak to just how unique her place in this hallowed cinematic movement—defined by such decidedly masculine artists as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut—is. Varda not only made films during the nouvelle vague, she helped inspire it. Her self-funded debut, the fiction-documentary hybrid 1956’s La Pointe Courte is often considered the unofficial first New Wave film; when she made it, she had no professional cinema training (her early work included painting, sculpting, and photojournalism). Though not widely seen, the film got her commissions to make several documentaries in the late fifties. In 1962, she released the seminal nouvelle vague film Cléo from 5 to 7; a bold character study that avoids psychologizing, it announced her official arrival. Over the coming decades, Varda became a force in art cinema, conceiving many of her films as political and feminist statements, and using a radical objectivity to create her unforgettable characters. She describes her style as cinécriture (writing on film), and it can be seen in formally audacious fictions like Le bonheur and Vagabond as well as more ragged and revealing autobiographical documentaries like The Gleaners and I and The Beaches of Agnès.
Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
8/31/15 – Today via The Criterion Collection: “Just a casual courtyard chat between Agnès Varda and Guillaume-en-Égypte” – link
9/2/15 – Need an Agnès Varda primer prior to our upcoming series on the grandmother of the French New Wave at Canisius College this fall? Helen Carter’s summery overview in Senses of Cinema serves as a perfect introduction! – link
9/3/15 – Wonderful interview w/ Agnès Varda on her home on the rue Daguerre, Paris via Sight & Sound – link
9/24/15 – Great news! Two Agnès Varda rarities – Jane B. and Kung-Fu Master – are headed for a US re-release thanks to Cinelicious Pics! – link
9/29/15 – Agnès Varda on Coming to California – link
10/6/15 – Agnès Varda shares credit for making an impact on feminist cinema in Kelly Gallagher’s riot grrrl infused THE HERSTORY OF THE FEMALE FILMMAKER! – link
10/9/15 – Via The Criterion Collection today: “Agnès Varda keeps popping up in the most unexpected places. The indefatigable eighty-seven-year-old filmmaker stopped by our offices this week, along with her daughter, Rosalie, to say hello and fill us in on what she’s been up to. We’re happy to report that this legend of the French New Wave—and beyond—shows no signs of slowing down.” – link
10/12/15 – Violet Lucca speaks with Agnès Varda back in 2011 for Film Comment. – link
10/16/15 – “From the beaches of Belgium to the beaches of Noirmoutier, Varda recycles her life story through recuperated photographs and film stock, narration and installation. Looking directly at the camera, Varda tells us that her life is about loving Jacques Demy, painting, family, puzzles, and loving Jacques Demy: motifs throughout the film, which provide a loose, meandering structure, an associative technique not unlike turning the pages of a family scrapbook and pausing to linger on a detail that sparks a memory, and then going off in a different direction. Press material for the film described it as an “auto-bio-filmo-puzzlo self-portrait.”” Maryann De Julio, Senses of Cinema – link
10/17/15 – “This film is more than a self-portrait—it’s a crowning artistic glory.” Richard Brody on The Beaches of Agnès, The New Yorker – link
10/18/15 – At 87, Agnès Varda continues to make the news with a new video essay by Kevin B. Lee on her work found over at Fandor – link
10/28/15 – “Whether largely fiction (Cleo from 5 to 7) or largely documentary (Jacquot de Nantes and The Gleaners and I) or balanced between the two (Vagabond), Agnès Varda’s greatest films have been portraits of people and places—faces and landscapes inseparable from one another. “If we open people up, we would find a landscape. If we open me up, we would find beaches,” she says at the beginning of The Beaches of Agnès, her lovely autobiographical documentary, one of the most popular and critically lauded movies of her career.” Amy Taubin – link
10/31/15 – “The Beaches of Agnès is her most recent film, and a cinematic self-portrait. She carries us from beach to beach, introducing us to the people who made her, both literally (her family) and metaphorically (her colleagues and the art that inspired her). Poetic logic and daydreams are all over the film, as they are in every one of her films; it’s just that this film is about her. So here, as the protagonist/filmmaker, she is, as she’s said before, “the other than me” and via a travelogue through beaches, clips from her films, photographs she took and whimsical dialogues with those people who have influenced her, we can piece together the puzzle of her life and career.” Sara Scheiron, International Documentary Association in an interview with Agnès Varda – link
11/3/15 – An interview with Agnès Varda about The Beaches of Agnès on PBS’s POV! – link