Beaches of Agnes 2008Antenna Documentary Festival, in collaboration with the Alliance Francaise, the French Embassy and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, presented a tribute to this legendary French filmmaker on October 13th. The films screened in 35mm (what a treat!). A special thanks to AGNSW Curator and projectionist Robert Herbert ; and thanks to Antenna for inviting me to introduce the films: Beaches of Agnes.
Here's an extract from my intro: In The Beaches of Agnes we are in the mind of an Elder who is ‘essaying’: she weighs up her own life, pays tribute to her lovers, friends, family and colleagues. She time travels back into her own films – and into Demy’s films. It is a tribute to cinema – to the nouvelle vaugue, to documentary, to fiction, to imagination, to creativity. There is a great freedom in this film – everything is possible – as in a Melies film. It is magic, the stuff of dreams.
Varda plays with representation – from Millet’s painting – which serves as visual metaphor and foundation text – and she transforms it into her own film text of gleaning. She pushes beyond the surfaces of Millet’s three gleaners and his framing – to blow open the edge of frame and ‘essay’ into her film’s themes; and she gives us herself and her gleaners in fleshy reality.
The people actually filmed in The Gleaners – and the way she films with them – is worth thinking about. How does Varda achieve such a special quality in her interviews? – a feeling of compassion and intimacy – a sense of shared humanity. Varda says this:
“The people I have filmed tell us a great deal about our society and ourselves. I myself learned a lot as I was making this film. It confirmed my idea that documentaries are a discipline that teach modesty”.