2008 // France // Agnès Varda // November 22, 2009 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
Agnès Varda cooks up a delicious slice of cinematic heresy with her latest work, The Beaches of Agnès. Could it be that the most invigorating film to emerge from the French New Wave's aged auteurs in recent years is a whimsical, affecting, exquisitely crafted documentary memoir? Octogenarian Varda, who was the odd woman out within the New Wave's Boys Club, has created an intensely personal, utterly frank, and wholly lovely film. With a mischievous smile that hints at both her warmth and her restless intellect, Varda narrates the story of her own life. Self-aware yet never apologetic, Beaches strikes the tone of a shared journey. We feel the director's bemusement, wistfulness, and melancholy as she tours the locales and visits with the people that shaped her art. With Beaches, Varda decisively triumphs over peers such as Rivette, Chabrol, and Resnais, whose late works (The Duchess of Langeais, A Girl Cut in Two, Private Fears in Public Places) have been trifling and ham-fisted. The beauty of Varda's film is the beauty of herself, presented honestly: a confident, relentlessly curious artist, whose life of achievement has not been diminished by her probing uncertainty or her persistent grief.