I’m not a completist by nature. No matter how stimulating or appealing I find something I’ve experienced – music, a film, a book, a painting – I’m rarely compelled to do a categorical sweep to find everything (or indeed anything) similar to try duplicating that feeling, at least not right away. Shelve the book; power off the screen; move on to something different.
But for 2021, in search of new ways to see familiar things, I aim to capture the completist spirit. As a film scholar with a background in French studies, I’ve seen a lot of Agnès Varda’s work; I’ve published on some of it, and, as it happens, I’m currently editing a collection of essays dedicated to it. But there remain many of her films that I’ve never seen—and the more of them I watch, the more I read about them, the more I feel I’m missing out on a fuller, perhaps even more fulfilling grasp of Varda’s cinema.
The fairly recent turn to Varda studies in cinéphile circles makes it easier than ever to take a panoramic look at her long and eclectic career: it began with the French-issued Tout(e) Varda DVD retrospective; followed last year by Criterion’s collection of Varda’s complete works; and on streaming, MUBI has reliably accounted for much of her career (at the time of this writing through a special heading, Voilà Varda).
As I have often repeated to my students, time spent with Varda is never time wasted. I want to make this investment of time and thought a part of my quest for a better year.
This blog will document my journey, and I warmly invite readers to join me in screening the films, sending comments and recommendations for further reading, and maybe even writing guest posts as we reconstitute Varda’s career one week and one film at a time.
STRUCTURE / SCHEDULE
Varda’s filmography on MUBI comprises 51 films, a serendipitous number that all but invites a year-long, weekly schedule. The goal is thus to post first impressions and musings about once a week, each time on a different film or a pair of closely related works, ultimately rounding off her full cinematic oeuvre by the end of December 2021.
Relevant posts will be tagged AGNÈS in the blog. Screenings have been tentatively scheduled as indicated below. Titles will be prioritized based in part on availability (particularly on MUBI and other streaming services), but also for more selfish reasons: to fit the framework for a book project I am developing on Varda’s work. I’m not planning to adhere to production chronology, but I’ve tried to balance the monthly time commitment between features and shorts.
Finally, I want to hold off formally re-screening Varda’s best-known films (Cléo, Vagabond, Beaches of Agnès) until the end of the year, the better to reconsider them through the lens of her entire oeuvre.
Salut les Cubains (1964)
Les Créatures (1966)
L’Opéra Mouffe / Diary of a Pregnant Woman (1958)
Black Panthers (1968)
Women Reply: Our Bodies, Our Sex (1975)
Le Petit Amour / Kung-Fu Master (1988)
Les Trois Boutons (2015)
One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (1977)
The Pleasure of Love in Iran (1976)
Quelques veuves de Noirmoutier (2006)
Jane B par Agnès V (1988)
7P., Cuis. S. de B à Saisir (1984)
Le Bonheur (1965)
Faces Places (2017)
Les Dites Caryatides (1984) & Les Dites Cariatides bis (2005)
Mur Murs (1981)
T’as de beaux escaliers, tu sais (1986)
La Pointe Courte (1955)
Agnès de ci de là Varda (2011)
Cent et une nuits (1995)
Une minute pour une image (1983)
Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse (2000) / Deux ans après (2002)
Homage à Zgougou (2002)
The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993)
Jacquot de Nantes (1991)
Uncle Yanco (1967)
The World of Jacques Demy (1995)
Les Enfants du Musée (1966)
La petite histoire de Gwen de Bretagne (2008)
La Cocotte d’Azur (1958)
The Vanishing Lion (2003)
Viennale Walzer (2004)
Loin du Vietnam (1967)
Along the Coast (1958)
Lions Love…and Lies (1969)
Ydessa, the Bears and Etc. (2004)
Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)
O Saisons, o chateaux (1957)
The Story of an Old Lady (1985)
Les Plages d’Agnès (2008)
Elsa la Rose (1966)
Varda par Agnès (2019)
Part of the project will involve compiling a Varda-centered and Varda-adjacent bibliography of scholarly essays, video essays, popular writings, and other secondary/ paratextual material. Anyone within the reach of this page is cordially invited to submit recommendations—perhaps even your own work!
The working bibliography will be linked here, and updated periodically throughout the year.