Agnes Varda lives inside Cinema. Literally. Her brilliant cinematic autobiography, “The Beaches of Agnes”, captures the melancholy and memorable life of perhaps the first New Wave filmmaker — though she is not always included when talk turns to Godard, Resnais, Rivette, Rohmer and Truffaut.
In this documentary, Varda uses mirrors within mirrors, and film within film, walking backwards as she goes back in time to collect memories and update them with the children of old friends and child actors grown old. Varda is also a brilliant photographer, and inserts photos inside the film within the film, giving us a glimpse of life in France, in Cuba, in California, stretching across several decades, and touching many lives both humble and renown. We see Jim Morrison, Harrison Ford, Catherine Deneuve, Jane Birkin, and Varda’s husband, Jacques Demy. Most famous for his musical, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, Demy counted on Varda to be his muse and inspiration. Their relationship is the centerpiece of this film, but never dominates the landscape, because for Varda, the whole world is her subject, and she brings it all together like a world traveling gleaner, a collector of lives, moments, sounds and visions. Beaches are the edge of the possible. The dream of the next film, the next photograph, the next installation.
She is experimental, but it’s never contrived. Her experiments seem to come from the material at hand, like found art, like the works Picasso did when he wasn’t painting his Cubist masterpieces. Varda incorporates the vision of the Cubists, as well as the Surrealists, and contrasts fiction and fantasy with everyday lives. Fishermen, protesters, feminists shouting for their rights, the Black Panthers organizing, people in Cuba celebrating, and surfers in Venice, California.
In the film, Varda turns 80, and she is a very young 80, still in her prime, still open and curious about the world, still finding fresh and wonderful ways to bring the world within the frame of her understanding . . .
Trailer for The Beaches of Agnes . . .