Agnès Varda and the Makings of a Film Movement
The French New Wave owes this director quite a debt, indeed.
Before the French New Wave unofficially kicked off with films like Claude Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge, François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, and Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, Agnès Varda had already laid down the movement’s aesthetic foundation with her 1955 debut La Pointe Courte. Though Varda merely followed her own creative vision, utilizing her skill at photography to depict two stories unfolding in a French community, she inadvertently inspired concepts for “La Nouvelle Vague” while her would-be contemporaries were still writing film reviews for Cahiers du Cinéma. Throughout her expansive and often experimental career, Varda has communicated simple truths while challenging viewers to decide, for themselves, what’s natural and what’s an intervention specifically designed to inspire a sensory response. This video essay examines the core themes of Varda’s first three features, and how similar principles influenced her documentaries and short films.