M is for Movies - 4 by Agnes Varda
1. La Pointe Courte
Varda found William Faulkner's novel Wild Palms the intellectual basis of her first feature film. The novel was composed of two unrelated stories that alternated chapters, the film follows his literary structure with alternating stories of a young married couple deconstructing their relationship and a fishing village, La Pointe Courte, with its communal anecdotes in hard economic times. By watching these stories interchange, one stark and rigid the other busy and fluid the 'two unrelated things become superimposed in your mind' -Varda. It is a juxtaposition between private lives and social lives which Varda says can never interchange.
Varda wrote the script at the age of 25 with no prior experience in film, and then she decided she was going to direct it. A small inheritance and a loan from her mother made up half the budget, the other half was 'sweat equity' and the film cost 10% of what films in the 1950's did. Everyone worked for free and the people of La Pointe Courte played themselves, which in the end, is my favorite feature. They couldn't afford even basic sound recording equipment so the film was shot and edited without sound, which is an amazing feat, many times they even had to write down what was said for dubbing. Its really a radical film for its time and is captivating today with its beautiful imagery and haunting dialogue of the couple.
Varda's second film follows Cleo, a French Pop singer, between the hours of 5 and 7 (6:30 actually) as she anxiously awaits the results from a biopsy of a stomach tumor. The fortune of Cleo and the film is relieved immediately, with a dissatisfying visit to a fortune teller. We then follow Cleo as her fortune unfolds and disposition gracefully sways from one emotional extreme to the other. When she is grieving in self pity she'll suddenly perk up by looking in the mirror or dancing down stairs, then when she is feeling giddy and light one of her many superstitions will present itself and her bad luck.
The symbolism in this film adds depth to the characters and the situation, the mirrors of self- obsession, dying trees, the blacks and whites. These elements enhance a transition in the character of Cleo that allows the audience to take her seriously and not just at the face value she had taken so much pride in. I've watched this film 8 times in the last year.
Varda's third film is up for interpretation: is it pastoral or satirical? Is it pro nuclear families or open marriages? Is the central character, the husband, a hero who truly knows how to enjoy life or a villain who knows how to ruin lives? And, indeed, what is happiness?
This is a beautiful pastel film filled with love and family and then more love and more family and some Mozart.
Francoise, a young tall dark and handsome carpenter, is happily married to Therese, a dress maker, and mother of two. ( The actors really were married and the children were their own) Then he meets a 'sunflower' Emilie and falls in love with her too and everyone is happy....until...
There are many times when I am dirty, walking somewhere, and a little pissed off and I feel like Mona from Vagabond, and for some reason I like that feeling. Mona is a bitch, harsh, but watch it and you will agree. She gets what she wants from people and never says thank you, of course, it is obvious she doesn't know what she wants, she's wandering aimlessly.
The portrait of Mona is formed by onlookers and people who have had fleeting encounters with her, she is a stranger, she only tells a few her name and always leaves without saying goodbye. The impact she leaves on those she encounters is the most interesting part of the film ( aside from the cinematography) the men deplore her and the women are envious of her. She is dead at the beginning and she dies at the end, and all throughout she is alone.
Thank you Michael for getting me 4 by Agnes Varda for Christmas!
*also he accidently ordered two box sets off the internet so if anyone wants to buy the second set from us just let me know!