Celebrating her 90th birthday this year, Agnes Varda remains one of the treasures of French cinema. Beginning with her first feature, La Pointe Courte, in 1954, she has spent decades making thought-provoking, intelligent and insightful films. In her latter years, she’s chosen to focus on making documentaries, but remains best-known for her narrative work. Most notably, Cleo from 5 to 7, Le Bonheur and the very singular Vagabond. The latter showcases her dynamic feminine gaze.
The body of a young woman (Sandrine Bonnaire), who has died of exposure, is discovered in a ditch. A phantom interviewer tries to piece together the last few months of her life by speaking to a range of people whose paths she’s crossed. We discover that she is a free spirit. A traveller. Always on the move. Incapable of settling anywhere and life repeatedly conspiring against her. As do the men, whose clutches she regularly has to escape.
Vagabond is a powerful work of feminist cinema which tells a fictional tale in a semi-documentary style. From the interviewee accounts, Varda cleverly weaves together the story of the last days of her life. Bonnaire is superb as the restless Mona. As Mona’s situation spirals inexorably out of control, she brings a believability and vulnerability to the role. Vagabond is a remarkable and chilling example of social-realism enshrined in a cautionary fable of a broken society.
Vagabond is out in cinemas from 29 June.