Film Review: Varda by Agnès

Whilst it has become customary to respond to the death of anyone even vaguely famous with a series of platitudes, in the case of Agnès Varda it was a huge loss to the world of cinema. She had a relentlessly inquisitive character, both of herself and anyone she came into contact with. A stalwart of the French new wave, she continued to make narrative and latterly documentary features until the end.

Her final film, Varda by Agnès, is as autobiographical as it is instructional. Structured in the form of a lecture, she starts at the beginning and takes us through her career. However, don’t expect a by-the-numbers jaunt through an eclectic filmography which spans seven decades. Never one to play by the rules, we’re treated to a mix of documentary realism, impish playfulness and tongue-in-cheek verité.

What makes Varda by Agnès such a fascination is her willingness to open herself up on camera whilst often speaking in riddles. In many ways a fairy godmother to the many film-makers she inspired, Varda grapples with her struggles, troubles and triumphs with an unabashed simplicity. Varda by Agnès is warm-hearted and generous. Like the women herself. A love letter to cinema and those people who moved her.

Varda by Agnès is in cinemas from 19 July.

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