Varda: A Retrospective

Feb. 28–Mar. 12, 2020

Agnès Varda was a true original. “I don’t do films pre-prepared by other people,’’ she said. “I don’t do star system. So I do my own little thing.” Her “thing” was so fresh and new that she’s known as a member of the French New Wave, even though her reimagining of filmmaking conventions actually predated the work of the others identified with that movement. She often straddled the line usually dividing fiction and nonfiction, and she proudly defied gender conventions, approaching every subject with open curiosity and empathy.

Born in Belgium in 1928, she moved to France as a young woman and became a photographer. She’d seen very few movies in her life, and was completely unfamiliar with the works of famous directors. When she made her first film, she said, “I didn’t even know that there existed a Cinémathèque in Paris!… My influences were painting, books, and life.”

When she passed away last year—after making nearly 50 films in practically every conceivable genre—Richard Brody wrote in The New Yorker, “She was so far ahead of the world that she had to wait for it to catch up to her.”

We’re proud to present this retrospective of her dazzling, uninhibited, entertaining, and endlessly unconventional work. And since so many of us here at the Burns are Varda fans, several staff members will host Reel Talks, informal discussions after selected screenings.

In the week leading up to the retrospective, we’ll be screening Varda’s final film, Varda by Agnès, a characteristically playful, profound, and personal summation of the director’s own brilliant career. At once impish and wise, she acts as our spirit guide on a free-associative tour through her six-decade artistic journey.

Programmed by Andrew Jupin

Want more Varda? Check out the Jacob Burns FilmCast, Episode Five: Viva Varda! for a wide-ranging conversation on Varda’s life and legacy.

SERIES TRAILER

Cléo from 5 to 7 Feb. 28–Mar. 11 “The first fully achieved feature by the woman who would become the premiere female director of her generation.” (Molly Haskell)…
Mur Murs Feb. 28–Mar. 4 “Disarmingly modest and closely observed.” (J. Hoberman, New York Times) Working in Los Angeles in 1979, Agnès Varda created this…
Shorts Program A: Architecture, Travel & Politics (1958–84) Feb. 28–Mar. 5 Feb. 28, 7:30: Intro by Senior Programmer Andrew Jupin This shorts package contains four documentaries Varda produced between ’58 and ’84, touching on various points of travel, political unrest,…
Le Bonheur Feb. 29–Mar. 5 March 5, 5:10: Introduction by Programmer Saidah Russell “Varda fills her frames with riots of color and nature—like Bonnard paintings come to life, and with an erotic intimacy…
Jacquot de Nantes Feb. 29–Mar. 11 “A one-of-a-kind celebration of a very gentle man.” (Vincent Canby, New York Times) During his final illness Varda’s husband, the…
The Beaches of Agnès Mar. 1–7 “A great, loving, uplifting film.” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times) “If we opened people up, we’d find landscapes. If we opened…
The Gleaners and I Mar. 1–10 March 10, 7:25: Reel Talk with Creative Culture alum & JBFC Content Producer Kerry LeVielle “Varda’s subject matter is surprisingly rich, but it’s her own energetic, curious nature that gives the film its snap.” (Edward…
One Sings, The Other Doesn’t Mar. 2–12 March 8, 4:35: Reel Talk with JBFC Preview Club Curator Karen Sloe Goodman “A radical blend of genres and moods that matches its artistic originality with its protagonists’ quietly revolutionary audacity. A personal…
Daguerréotypes Mar. 2–10 “Like many of Varda’s similarly themed explorations, the results are more than they initially seem, casual anthropology with a strongly…
One Hundred and One Nights Mar. 2–11 “A delirious birthday party in honor of filmmaking’s first century.” (Janet Maslin, New York Times) Varda’s self-described “divertimento,” an homage…
Shorts Program B: Amis et Famille (1966–93) Mar. 2–9 March 2, 7:35 Intro by Senior Programmer Andrew Jupin This shorts package contains another four documentaries by Varda, produced between ’66 and ’93, all centered on friends, colleagues, kindred…
Vagabond Mar. 3–6 March 6, 5:10: Reel Talk with Digital Marketing Associate Paige Grand Pré “A masterpiece, clearly one of the finest films in many a year.” (Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune) Sandrine Bonnaire (La Cérémonie)…
La Pointe Courte Mar. 3–6 “La Pointe Courte announced Varda to a world that wasn’t prepared for her.” (Manohla Dargis, New York Times) Agnès Varda’s…
Shorts Program C: Narratives: Experimental & Otherwise (1958–84) Mar. 3–12 March 3, 5:15 Intro by Senior Programmer Andrew Jupin Our third and final shorts package focuses on four short narratives Varda directed between ’58 and ’84. Featured here are:…
Lions Love (...and Lies) Mar. 4–11 “One of the funniest artifacts of the liberated 1960s.” (Vincent Canby, New York Times) Agnès Varda brings New York counterculture…

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