On Tuesday evening every audience member of the sold out NFT1 screen at the BFI Southbank rose to give 90-year-old Agnès Varda a standing ovation. With astonishing humility, she responded with “I’m so glad there are so many of you. I’m impressed that I’m just coming saying things and you come to listen to me.”
For decades Agnès Varda has been confined to the margins of film history while her French New Wave contemporaries like Godard and Truffaut appear on every film studies syllabus. No more. In the past year, Faces Places screened at Cannes, she received an honorary Academy Award, protested the lack of female directors represented at Cannes, and now is celebrated by a retrospective at the BFI.
Billed as “Agnès Varda in Conversation”, the audience was, in fact, treated to a masterclass by Varda followed by a short Q + A. Shuffling her pages of notes she said, “I have so many pieces of paper because the writing is large. Don’t worry, it’s not a four- hour talk.” She spoke with such insight, intelligence and wit that the audience would happily have listened for four hours and more. In typically rule-breaking fashion, Varda didn’t simply take us through her films chronically; instead, she jumped between decades, creating a non-linear scrapbook of memories that still highlighted the reoccurring elements that define her style and have cemented her as a feminist filmmaker.
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