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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.


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