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All About Agnès

 

March 7-24, 2019

Istanbul Modern Cinema presents the most comprehensive retrospective in Turkey to date of Agnés Varda, one of the most innovative and liberal creators in the history of cinema, a leading representative of the feminist movement, and a pioneer of French New Wave.

For Agnès Varda cinema is cinema; it does not discriminate between format, genre or duration. She directs her films using a method, which she defines as cinematic writing (cinécriture). As interdisciplinary works, her films incorporate painting, photography, installation and literature. Abolishing the boundaries between fiction and documentary, subjective and objective, Varda, as a “cinematic writer” makes herself felt even in her films where she isn’t the subject.

Agnès Varda first entered the world of cinema with La Pointe Courte, 1954 in which she depicts the story of fishermen living in a town near Sète, where she grew up. Varda produced five short documentaries following Parallel Lives, which is considered as one of the pioneers of French New Wave by celebrated film historian Georges Sadoul. Following these documentaries was Cléo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7, 1962), which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. As one of the 343 women signatories to Simone de Beauvoir’s manifesto for the legalization of abortion, Varda has been active in the women’s liberation movement, and in this respect her Women Reply: Our Bodies, Our Sex (Réponse de Femmes: Notre Corps, Notre Sexe, 1975) is of utmost significance. During the 1990s, Varda directed documentaries in dedication to her late husband, famous director Jacques Demy, and in the 2000s she created The Gleaners and I (Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse, 2000), followed by The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later (Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse... Deux Ans Après, 2002), The Beaches of Agnès (Les Plages D'Agnès, 2008), Faces Places (Visages, Villages, 2017)that she co-created with photographer and installation artist JR, and her autobiographical film, Varda by Agnès (Varda par Agnès, 2019) which premiered at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival and instantly became a favorite of young generations.

“Alive and curious” for 91 years, Agnès Varda has been creating cinema for the past 65 years, adding new awards to her repertoire which includes Legion d’Honneur, René Clair Award and Academy Honorary Award, and continuing her inspirational “dance with cinema”.


Talk: The Cinema of Agnès Varda

Thursday, March 7, 19.00

Venue: French Cultural Center in İstanbul

Our guest Didier Rouget talks about his long working relationship with Agnès Varda and on the director’s cinema. The talk is moderated by Müge Turan and Alin Taşçıyan.

 

 

Click for tickets and further information

 

PARALLEL LIVES (LA POINTE COURTE), 1954

France |DCP, Black & White, 80' |French, English

Cast: Philippe Noiret, Silvia Monfort

Agnès Varda’s first film, La Pointe Courte , which she directed at the age of 26, is considered as one of the leading films of French New Wave cinema. Portraying the events taking place at La Pointe Courte, a fishermen’s village, the film focuses on two different stories. Stylistically resembling a documentary, the first story addresses daily life and the ordinary problems that arise in a fishermen’s village, while the other story portrays a young couple talking about their relationship and life, with a seriousness that contrasts the simplicity of village life and an exceptional visual style that carries traces of the director’s past as a photographer. 

 

 

CLÉO FROM 5 TO 7(CLÉO DE 5 À 7), 1961

France, Italy |DCP, Black & White, 90' |French

Cast: Corinne Marchand, Antoine Bourseiller, Dominique Davray

One of Agnès Varda’s most beloved films, Cléo from 5 to 7 is also one of the most important films of French New Wave. This ageless film portrays the young and beautiful singer Cléo, during the two hours as she waits for the test results to see whether she has cancer or not. The ominous final card in Cléo’s tarot reading is a symbol for death. Cléo is falling apart; the biopsy is to come out that evening. From 5pm to 6.30pm that day, life will be upside down for Cléo, whose real name is Florence. During the wait, Cléo will let go of her selfishness, discover the brutalities of life and start opening up to people, just as the camera presents the fragility of beauty and love in the face of death as it brings the viewers closer to the film’s protagonist.

 

 

HAPPINESS (LE BONHEUR), 1964

France |DCP, Color, 85' |French

Cast: Jean-Claude Drouot, Marie-France Boyer, Marcelle Faure-Bertin

In her third feature-length and first color film, Happiness, Agnès Varda uses the language of cinema very efficiently both in terms of the vibrancy of colors and the score by Mozart. At first impression, the film seems suspiciously simple, and that is exactly what Varda intends to convey. The young and handsome carpenter François has a “perfect” life with his tailor wife and two kids. One day, François meets post office worker Émilie, and the two fall in love. François loves both women and believes that this situation is nothing but a source of happiness that he emanates to those around him. How will this polyamory impact Thérèse and Émilie, and what shape will this “portrait of happiness” take?

 

 

LIONS LOVE (… AND LIES), 1969

France, USA |DCP, Color, 110' |English
Cast: Viva, Gerome Ragni, James Rado

The film portrays Gerome Ragni (Jim) and James Rado (Jerry), the composers of the musical Hair, and the week they spend at the Hollywood house of Viva—one of Andy Warhol's subjects—through a fictional story that feels more like an improvisation. The film proceeds along with the television feed of infamous assassinations of the period, and follows Jim, Jerry and Viva as they focus on different experiences regarding their lives. The American feminist filmmaker Shirley Clarke, on the other hand, is trying to finance her new film and is having trouble during the process. As Clarke begins to make concessions to her artistic choices due to the pressure from the studio, Agnès Varda accompanies her in one of the scenes.

 

DAGUERREOTYPES (DAGUERRÉOTYPES), 1975

France, West Germany |DCP, Color, 80' |French

Cast: Rosalie Varda

Daguerreotypes isVarda's documentary homage to Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, the pioneer of the history of photography. The film takes place in a small part of Daguerre Street—where the director also lives—filled with small shops in Paris's 14th Arrondissement next to Montparnasse, and is a candid and fun portrayal of Varda’s friends and neighbors. The director displays the relationships these people form with their daily occupations, and as she does this, she lets them be just as they are, therefore facilitating the formation of a variety of portraits. The characters in the film each show a different reaction to the presence of the camera.

 

ONE SINGS, THE OTHER DOESN’T (L'UNE CHANTE, L'AUTRE PAS), 1976

France, Belgium, Venezuela|DCP, Color, 120' |French

Cast: Thérèse Liotard, Valérie Mairesse, Robert Dadiès

The story unfolds with the backdrop of 1970s France, during the second wave of feminism, and depicts the intersecting lives of two very different women. Suzanne is living with a photographer who is the father of her two young children. She finds out that she is pregnant with a third child, but she doesn’t have the means to take care of another one. Pomme, whom she meets during this period, assists her in her process of abortion. Years later, Suzanne moves to her family’s farm together with her children. Meanwhile, supporting the women’s liberation movement with her songs, Pomme gets married and moves to Iran; but things won’t turn out as she has planned. Despite the separate routes their lives take, the two women hang on to their relationship. Displaying the sisterhood, friendship and solidarity of these two women, the film is Varda’s gift to the women’s liberation movement that she is also a part of.

 

 

MURAL MURALS (MUR MURS), 1980

France, USA|DCP, Color, 81' |French, English, Italian, Spanish

Cast: Juliet Berto, Judy Baca, Mathieu Demy

In 1979, Varda returns to Los Angeles from France and produces a documentary about the murals that surround the Californian city. These colorful and content-rich murals bring vibrancy to the city, and provide a space for expression to the different groups of people that inhabit the city. Varda acts as both a tour guide and a historian as she tries to capture the indescribable spirit of these artistic expressions that are an inseparable part of the experience of the City of Angels at the end of the 1960s. Incorporating interviews with muralists, Varda takes the viewers on a journey that follows the mysterious stories on the city’s colorful walls, using her limitless curiosity and her unique sensibility.

 

 

DOCUMENTEUR (DOCUMENTEUR), 1981

France, USA|DCP, Color, 63' |French, English

Cast: Sabine Mamou, Mathieu Demy, Lisa Blok-Linson

The film’s title is a combination of “documentaire” and “menteur” which corresponds to documentary and liar, respectively. Also known with its original title, Documenteur: An Emotion Picture, Varda directs this film with the intention of showing it alongside her documentary Mural Murals, whichportrays the murals of Los Angeles. In fact, Documenteur opens up with the final frame from Mural Murals. Emilie is a French woman who has recently divorced her American husband, and is trying to start a life as a single mother to her young son in Los Angeles. She tries to find a home as she works as a typist for a filmmaker.

 

VAGABOND (SANS TOIT NI LOI), 1985

France |DCP, Color, 105' |French, English, Arabic

Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire, Macha Méril, Stéphane Freiss

With a voice-over by Varda, Vagabond’s opening scene resembles a documentary, yet the film is more like Citizen Kane as it begins with the death of its protagonist, incorporates the testimonies of people who have touched his life and is filled with flashbacks. One morning, a woman’s body is found inside a ditch. The police are unable to identify this poorly groomed young woman. Born into a middle class family, Mona studies to become a secretary, begins working at an office but hates this life and sets off on the streets, choosing a life without identities. She lives the life of a vagabond, carrying a bag that only contains essentials and a tent. She doesn’t care about anything, she just keeps on moving. Mona breeds fear and disgust in people who encounter her during the final period of her life, but this fear and unease is because she represents the possibility of a different–good or bad—life. She doesn’t make concessions to her freedom, which engenders a feeling of resentment and latent envy.

 

 

KUNG-FU MASTER!, 1987

France |DCP, Color, 80' |French, English

Cast: Jane Birkin, Mathieu Demy, Charlotte Gainsbourg

According to Agnès Varda, the film is a fictional family project with respect to its cast accompanying Jane Birkin. In the film, Jane Birkin steps in front of the camera with her two real daughters Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon, and plays Mary Jane, a single mother of two girls. Mary Jane falls in love with Julien, played by Varda’s son Mathieu Demy, a friend of one of her daughters. But is this really love? Or is it a middle-aged woman’s attempt to turn back time? Taking place during the time when AIDS was spreading fear across the world, the film is a rare investigation on growing old and loneliness, innocence and love as well as an expose that brings the subjectivity of women to the forefront.

 

 

JANE B. FOR AGNÈS V. (JANE B. PAR AGNÈS V.), 1987

France |DCP, Color, 105' |French

Cast: Jane Birkin, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Philippe Léotard

According to Agnès Varda, this film is an “imaginary biography.” Rather than sticking to the classic template of a biographic film, the director creates a fantasy sequence. Birkin moves from one character to another throughout the film, which focuses on the roles of artist and muse. Each of the fantasy sequences in the film is a reference to Birkin’s real life. Varda can be considered as one of the most modest directors among the names considered within the French New Wave. Indeed, she develops a highly emotional and direct relationship with her cast in this film: so much so that, it feels as if she is reaching out from inside her camera and touching Birkin.

 

 

JACQUOT DE NANTES, 1991

France |DCP, Color, 118' |French

Cast: Philippe Maron, Edouard Joubeaud, Laurent Monnier

Jacquot de Nantes depicts the legendary director Jacques Demy, known for his films such as Lola, Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Parapluies de Cherbourg) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les demoiselles de Rochefort), and his childhood and teenager years spent in the town of Nantes. Besides an expose of Demy’s life, the film is Agnès Varda’s love letter to her husband, whom she lost a few months after the film. Little Jacquot (short for Jacques) lives above the auto repair shop owned by his family. Despite his very young age, Jacquot dreams of cinema and directing films, and buys a tiny camera to shoot his first films. Soon after, he will set off to Paris in order to register at a film school.

 

THE YOUNG GIRLS TURN 25 (LES DEMOISELLES ONT EU 25 ANS), 1992

France |DCP, Color, 63' |French

Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Agnès Varda, Michel Legrand

After her husband Jacques Demy passes away in 1991, Agnès Varda directs this film by bringing together the main characters of Demy’s film The Young Girls of Rochefort, as a celebration of the film’s 25th anniversary. Launched with the sentence “The memory of happiness may be happiness itself”, the film incorporates footage from the summer of 1966, when Demy was shooting his film with footage from the 25th year celebrations in Rochefort that portray a melancholic and joyful attitude. But more importantly, the film is first and foremost an expression of Varda’s love for her late husband.

 

A HUNDRED AND ONE NIGHTS (LES CENT ET UNE NUITS), 1994

France, England | DCP, Color, 135 min | French

Actors: Michel Piccoli, Marcello Mastroianni, Henri Gercin

In this film, Agnès Varda’s loving and joyful tribute to the cinema and cinephiles, Michel Piccolli appears in the role of Simon Cinéma, an eccentric, hundred-year-old cinema enthusiast who lives in a large and ostentatious house which is replete with film posters on walls and reminders of the history of cinema. Simon hires a film student to visit her every day for 101 days to help her record her memories. The film then takes us on a dizzying journey through Simon Cinéma’s memories of the world of film. An entertaining show containing dozens of film clips and discussions about cinema, this journey features a number of famous actors such as Catherine Deneuve, Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford and Harry Dean Stanton, who discuss their experiences and memories of their careers in film.

 

 


THE WORLD OF JACQUES DEMY (l’UNIVERS DE JAQUES DEMY), 1995

France, Belgium, Spain | DCP, Color, 90 min | French, English

Actors: Anouk Aimée, Richard Berry, Nino Castelnuovo, Catherine Deneuve

“After having made a film about Jacques’ childhood (Jacquot de Nantes, 1991), my intention was to make as objective a documentary as possible about the film-maker Jacques Demy. I was able to obtain a number of personal testimonies. I also contributed, adding my memories and documents concerning him, but I mostly left the stage to his close friends, actors and actresses who had worked with him, those who loved him and the three young girls who naturally constituted his universe, though they never met him in person.” This is what Varda has to say about Jacques Demy’s Universe. This time she delves into Demy’s work, films and artistic persona, as if she is somehow unable to part from the husband she lost at a young age.

 

THE GLEANERS AND I (LES GLANEURS ET LA GLANEUSE), 2000

France | DCP, Color, 82 min | French

Actors: François Wertheimer, Agnès Varda, Bodan Litnanski

Agnès Varda, who travelled throughout France to come together with gleaners, collectors and inventors in order to make this film about those who, from need, choice or chance, gather what others have thrown away. The worlds these people inhabit shake the viewer profoundly, because these people who we find strange or destitute, and who we pity, live in a world that is moving and full of surprises. Varda takes the lives of ordinary people as her subject and uses cinema to do what a social scientist does by examining social relationships, looking from the bottom upwards. Varda, who sees film-making as an act of collecting, takes us on a voyage through the world of gleaners, reminds us once again that curiosity has no age limit.

 

THE GLEANERS AND I: TWO YEARS LATER (LES GLANEURS ET LA GLANEUSE... DEUX ANS APRÈS), 2002

France | DCP, Color, 64 min | French

Actors: Bodan Litnanski, Macha Makeïeff, Agnès Varda

In this film, intended as a sequel to The Gleaners and I that she made in the year 2000, she revisits the people she met when she was making The Gleaners and I two years later and turns her camera towards the people who reached out to her because of the first film. This film, which shows us cross-sections of the lives of those who cling to life despite a variety of physical, economic or spiritual hardships, the director simply asks a few basic questions and then listens. She approaches everyone with the same distance, including those who are pleased with the attention the first film brought them, those who were able to direct their lives in a positive direction and those who were able to overcome great hardships, she simply allows the viewer to experience that moment.

 

THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS (LES PLAGES D'AGNÈS), 2008

France | DCP, Color, 110 min | French, English

Actors: Agnès Varda, André Lubrano, Blaise Fournier

“If you look carefully within people, you find landscapes there. When it comes to me, if they were to open me up, they would find beaches.” This is how Agnès Varda describes herself. Varda, who in this autobiographical documentary turns to the beaches that constitute periods of her life, appears on the stage with her films, her images and interviews. In the film, which places emphasis on the little notebooks in which Varda took notes throughout her life and on the photographs she collected, the director tells us how she started out working as a stage photographer, then how she became one of the directors of the early period of the French New Wave which had a great impact on cinema, her experiences with the director Jacques Demy, feminism, her travels in Cuba, China and the U.S.A, her life as an independent producer and her family in a humorous and emotional voice.

 

 

FACES PLACES (VISAGES VILLAGES), 2017

France | DCP, Color, 94 min | French

Directors: Agnès Varda, JR

Faces Places is a film about an extremely special encounter and an unparalleled collaboration: It is a joint project-film by Agnès Varda and French street artist and photographer JR. The 90-year-old artist Varda, who for a period of over sixty years has been producing works from films to photographs and from video installations to sculpture, visits French villages with the young JR. While the pair converse with people, take photographs and exhibit the photographs they’ve taken, they also try to become friends and get to know each other better. Faces Places is a profoundly warm and special diary-travel film about art, aging, sharing and travelling by two very special artists.

 

 

VARDA BY AGNÈS (VARDA PAR AGNÈS), 2019

France |DCP, Color, 115’ | French, English

Varda by Agnès, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival two weeks ago, is an autobiographic, self-critical documentary that makes fun of itself like Varda’s earlier documentary The Beaches of Agnès. In the film, the director incorporates footage edited from various interviews and films together with images she unveiled from her photography albums to focus on her incredible career and life. She addresses her fears and shortcomings as she revisits memories of her time in Paris and Los Angeles. But more importantly, she offers a cross section of her filmography starting with her very first short film. Varda depicts how she learned to look through the camera lens, the transformations in the industry following digitalization, and the new relationship she formed with cinema, which recently transcended the silver screens to spill out of the movie theaters to move into art galleries. As always, she greets the viewers with her playful attitude, fresh energy, and now even wiser than ever.

 

SHORT FILMS

 

CINÉVARDAPHOTO, 2004
France | 35 mm,  Color & Black-and-White, 96’ | French, English

Cinévardaphoto consists of three short films that move in reverse chronological order. Varda, who in The Gleaners and I took on gleaners as both a philosophical and political act, now presents examples from her own life, giving her work a personal dimension. The most obvious connection between the three films is that all of them were inspired by photographs. As the title suggests, Varda, who takes a position midway between cinema and photography, shows the viewer her own past and present as well as the past and present of photography and cinema, doing so without resorting to nostalgia, on the contrary once again grasping life with her undiminished passion and sensitivity.

 

YDESSA, THE BEARS AND ETC. (YDESSA, LES OURS ET ETC.), 2004
The longest of the three films and the only one filmed digitally, Ydessa, the Bears and Etc. is about an exhibit, from which the film takes its name, by the collector and curator Ydessa Hendeles, the daughter of a family that survived the holocaust. The exhibit, which contains thousands of photographs of people posing with teddy bears, focuses on the loss of innocence in Nazi Germany. As in The Gleaners and I, Varda turns her camera towards those who are neglected because they are ordinary and gives them meaning and value.


ULYSSE, 1982
The second film, Ulysse, follows the traces of a photograph she took in 1954 when she was still a student. In this film Varda speaks to the models in a black-and-white photograph of a naked man, an intimidated child and a dead goat by the seaside. While primarily putting the photograph into context, she reflects on her own experiences of taking photographs and the relationship between artist and object and the universal and the personal.

 

A SALUTE TO THE CUBANS (SALUT LES CUBAINS), 1963
The third and last short film, A Salute to the Cubans, is a 30-minute collage of black-and-white photographs that Varda took on a visit to Cuba shortly after the Cuban Revolution, narrated by the famous actress Michel Piccoli, showing daily life in Cuba as it crossed a historic threshold.

 

SHORTS FROM AGNЀS 1

 

ALONG THE COAST (DU CÔTÉ DE LA CÔTE), 1958

France | DCP, Black-and-White, 24’ | French

Actors: Roger Coggio, Anne Olivier, Jacopo Nizi

A nostalgic and humorous travelogue filmed under the bright blue sky of the French Riviera.

 

ELSA THE ROSE (ELSA LA ROSE), 1965

France | DCP, Black-and-White, 20’ | French

Actors: Louis Aragon, Michel Piccoli, Elsa Triolet

This film tells the story of the love, marriage and youth of the poets Louis Aragon and Elsa Triolet. Narrated by the Elsa we know from Aragon’s poems.

 

UNCLE YANCO (ONCLE YANCO), 1967

France, U.S.A. | DCP, Color, 22’ | French, English

Actors: Jean Varda, Tom Luddy, Agnès Varda

While visiting San Francisco, the director learns that she has a relative, who she has never met, named Jean Varda, nicknamed “Yanco”. Yanco is a painter who lives a colorful life with his hippie friends on a houseboat in Sausalito.

 

BLACK PANTHERS, 1968

France, U.S.A. | DCP, Black-and White, 30’| French

Actors: H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver

This documentary shows footage of one of the protests in Oakland calling for the release of Huey Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party and contains interviews with leading figures of the party, including Newton.

 

WOMEN REPLY (OUR BODIES, OUR SEX) (RÉPONSE DE FEMMES (NOTRE CORPS, NOTRE SEXE)), 1975

France | DCP, Color, 8’ | French

Actors: Catherine, Agnès Varda, Maryline Even

In this film made for a television channel, the director brings various women in front of the camera and asks them questions about sex and desire, advertisements and motherhood, and the women reply.

 

THE PLEASURE OF LOVE IN IRAN (PLAISIR D'AMOUR EN IRAN), 1976
France | DCP, Color, 6’ | French

Actors: Valérie Mairesse, Ali Rafie, Thérèse Liotard

The young couple we met previously in One Sings, the Other Doesn’t find reflections of their love in Iran’s unequalled architecture.

 

SHORTS FROM AGNЀS 2

 

THE FIANCÉS OF THE BRIDGE MAC DONALD (BEWARE OF DARK SUNGLASSES)
(LES FIANCÉS DU PONT MAC DONALD OU (MÉFIEZ-VOUS DES LUNETTES NOIRES)), 1961
France | DVD, Black-and-White, 3’ | French
Actors: Anna Karina, Jean-Luc Godard, Emilienne Caille

In this short film, which also appears in her film Cléo from 5 to 7, Varda parodies American silent comedy movies. Among the actors in the film, we see familiar faces such as the director Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina and Eddie Constantine.

 

THE SO-CALLED CARYATIDS (LES DITES CARIATIDES), 1984
France | DVD, Color, 13’ | French

Images of the Caryatids, statues of undraped or half-draped women encountered frequently in the architecture of Paris, accompanied by Baudelaire’s poetry and Offenbach’s music.

 

7 RMS, KTCH, BATH… (NOT TO BE MISSED) (7P., CUIS., S. DE B., ... (À SAISIR)), 1984
France | DVD, Color, 27’ | French

Actors: Hervé Mangani, Louis Bec, Saskia Cohen Tanugi

As the director wanders through a large, unfurnished apartment that is up for sale, she leads us to question the various meanings we attribute to the concept of “empty space”.

 

YOU’VE GOT BEAUTIFUL STAIRS, YOU KNOW (T'AS DE BEAUX ESCALIERS, TU SAIS), 1986

France | DVD, Color, 3’ | French

Actors: Isabelle Adjani, Agnès Varda

Varda’s short tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Cinémathèque Française in 1986, narrated by Isabelle Adjani, presenting the place’s famous stairs and classic film images also revolving around stairs.

 

THE VOLATILE LION (LE LION VOLATIL), 2003

France | DVD, Color, 12’ | French

Actors: Julie Depardieu, Frédérick E. Grasser-Hermé, Silvia Urrutia

Varda has often focused masterfully on architecture in her films and this time she relates a love story that unfolds before the Belfort Lion in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.

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