|Agnès Varda was the official photographer for the Théâtre National Populaire before she was encouraged by her Left Bank colleagues, at age twenty-six, to make her first feature, La pointe courte (1954). A critical success and a financial failure, many consider La pointe courte to be the birth of the French New Wave. Between La pointe courte and her next feature six years later, Cleo from 5 to 7 (1960) Varda completed three short charming documentaries about places in France that held special meaning for her.
Cleo from 5 to 7, which brought Varda to international attention, describes in real-time the life of a young woman who is anxiously awaiting reports from her doctor. Varda's approach can be best discerned in this work: a tendency to inflect narrative with reality, and a deep interest in the everyday life of women. Varda, a critical feminist, regards filmmaking as artisanal work equivalent to weaving and hand sewing and has established her own filmmaking atelier "cinè-tamaris." She has made films in France, Iran, Cuba, and the United States, where in the 1967 she made Uncle Yanco, a film about a relative in San Francisco; in 1968 Black Panthers, a documentary shot in Oakland; Lion's Love (1969) a lively riff on Hollywood's "reality," which starred among others the Warhol superstar, Viva. In 1980 she returned to California to make Mur Murs (1980) about Los Angeles street murals.
Varda's other features include Le Bonheur (1964) on the cruelty behind domestic bliss; The Creatures (1965) starring Catherine Deneuve; One Sings the Other Doesn't (1976) chronicling the friendship of two women over fifteen years; Vagabond (1985) which won the Grand Prize at the Venice International Film Festival; Jane B. By Agnes V. (1987) a portrait of the actress Jane Birkin; and Kung-Fu Master (1987), a love story about an older woman played by Birkin and an adolescent played by Varda's son, Mathieu Demy. Married in 1962 to Jacques Demy, the celebrated French filmmaker, Varda made a film about her husband's childhood Jacquot De Nantes (1990); after his death in 1990 she completed two documentaries about his work The Young Girls of Rochefort25 Years Later (1992), and The Universe Of Jacques (1993). Her most recent film, 101 Nights, was made for the centennial of cinema in 1996.
Agnès Varda is presented with the cooperation of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was organized by Laurence Kardish, Curator, Department of Film.
©1997 The Museum of Modern Art, New York