The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

Program 7: Her Body, Herself


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Synopsis

A founder of the French New Wave who became an international art-house icon, Agnès Varda was a fiercely independent, restlessly curious visionary whose work was at once personal and passionately committed to the world around her. In an abundant career in which she never stopped expanding the notion of what a movie can be, Varda forged a unique cinematic vocabulary that frequently blurs the boundaries between narrative and documentary, and entwines loving portraits of her friends, her family, and her own inner world with a social consciousness that was closely attuned to the 1960s counterculture, the women’s liberation movement, the plight of the poor and socially marginalized, and the ecology of our planet. This comprehensive collection places Varda’s filmography in the context of her parallel work as a photographer and multimedia artist—all of it a testament to the radical vision, boundless imagination, and radiant spirit of a true original for whom every act of creation was a vital expression of her very being.

Picture 8/10

The seventh dual-layer disc found in Criterion’s box set The Complete Films of Agnès Varda features the program “Her Body, Herself” and presents the films One Sings, the Other Doesn’t; Réponse de femmes; and Plaisir d’amour en Iran. Réponse de femmes is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is sourced from a 35mm internegative according to the opening text on the restoration (the book’s notes state it has been sourced from a 16mm negative, but I do doubt that to be the case). The other two are presented in the ratio of 1.66:1 and both have been sourced from the 35mm original negatives. All of the films have been scanned and restored at 2K resolution.

The disc is essentially the individual release Criterion put out last year for One Sings, the Other Doesn’t, which even featured the other two films as supplements. This disc differs in that the menu has been modified to match the rest of the set, the two short films now open with the Criterion logos themselves, and the disc also contains an extra feature that was not found on that individual release. It looks as though Criterion had to shift things a bit to make that extra supplement fit, as the file for One Sings, the Other Doesn’t is a few gigabytes smaller on this disc, yet despite that, I couldn’t detect a discernable difference between the two presentations.

The image for that film is still very sharp and highly detailed, while also rendering film grain incredibly well. It gives off a nice filmic look and nothing stands out as problematic in relation to the encode. What I still have issue with is the heavy green/yellow tint the film has. This is just a common thing now I guess, but it really doesn’t look right, and I’d say it looks gross, for lack of a better word. Skin tones are jaundiced, whites have a yellow tint, and I don’t think the colour blue ever shows up. Lots of cyan, though.

And unfortunately, this carries through to the other two films. Though the films all ultimately have a nice film-like texture to them, the yellow tint really hampers things and also impacts the black levels, which can come off a bit muddy.

All of the films have been thoroughly cleaned up at the very least, with only a handful of minor marks remaining between the three of them. Digitally the shorts also look great. Like One Sings, Plaisir d’amour en Iran renders grain quite wonderfully, with it looking pretty fine, and this leads to the sharp details. Réponse is a bit fuzzier in comparison to the other two, and its grain is a bit thicker, though I suspect this is because the film was originally filmed on 16mm and just transferred to 35mm. Despite that it still looks filmic on the same level as the other films.

Overall, the encodes, clean-up, and clarity of the image across all three films is fine, it’s again that yellow tint, which really kills the colours and the black levels.

Audio 6/10

Yet again, all of the films come with single-channel monaural soundtracks, all in French. Surprisingly, all three are presented with lossless PCM 1-channel mono soundtracks; so far, most of the shorts in the set have come with Dolby Digital soundtracks, and the films on the individual edition of One Sings were also presented in Dolby Digital.

All three soundtracks sound fine enough, offering clean, sharp dialogue. One Sings can come off a little more dynamic during musical sequences but on the whole all of the tracks are pretty flat.

Extras 6/10

This disc does port over all of the on-disc supplements found on Criterion’s individual release of One Sings, the Other Doesn’t, though it adds one new feature and presents the two short films as primary feature films through the main menu. The new feature is one of the more interesting ones in the set: Varda’s television film Nausicaa. The history behind the film is a rather fascinating one, and it’s a bit disappointing Criterion doesn’t offer more material around it. Varda had made the film for French television in 1967, and it was apparently a response to the Greek coup d’état by the far-right. Varda was in the process of editing the film together when it was seized by the French government (as far as I understand it) without explanation. It managed to surface in the 70s and has been loosely available on home video, but only in a work print form, which is what Criterion presents here.

I don’t think Varda was done with it yet as it’s pretty rough around the edges. It’s a mix of fiction and documentary, with a plot around a woman (who is, I’m sure not coincidently, named Agnès) taking in a Greek exile (this appears to be somewhat autobiographical). Cut into this are what seem to be reenactments and then talking-head interviews with actual Greek exiles living in France, who address Varda as though they are sending her a video letter of some sort. Some sequences go on, some of the editing is choppy, and it has a very scattershot feel, so I’m assuming this isn’t exactly what Varda intended (again, it was confiscated while she was editing it), but it’s a fascinating, incomplete work.

It also doesn’t look too bad here. It’s a work print, and as I said the editing can be rough, splices and all still showing. There’s also a lot of damage. But it is presented here in high-definition, and despite the low bitrate it still manages to look like a film, if a rough one.

Carried over from the individual Blu-ray edition is the 47-minute documentary directed by Katja Raganelli, Women Are Naturally Creative. The documentary ends up being a combination making-of documentary for One Sings, the Other Doesn’t and portrait of its director. There’s quite a bit of production and post-production footage, which Varda narrates, mixed in with interviews. Raganelli also gets in interviews with Varda and the two talk about some of her previous work, the representation of women in them (as well as “female language in film”), and even talk a bit about her time in California and the work that came from that. And hey, you even get see Varda as a parent, like in one sequence where she has to tell her son Mathieu to go off to bed. It’s a well-done portrait of the director, even in its brief time, and a nice inclusion.

The film’s supplements then close with a trailer. The other two films only receive short introductions, Varda explaining the origins of each film. Sadly, the set drops one of the nicest features with the individual release: the reproduction of the press booklet for the film.

Closing

All three films have a nice film-like look, but the yellow tint, yet again, is still a bit much. The addition of Varda’s unfinished film, Nausicaa, is a wonderful new addition.

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Directed by: Agnes Varda, JR
Year: 1955-2019
Time: 2477 total min.
 
Series: The Criterion Collection
Licensors: Succession Varda  |  Les Films du Jeudi  |  Cine-Tamaris  |  Cinémathèque Française
Release Date: August 11 2020
MSRP: $249.95
 
Blu-ray
15 Discs | BD-50
1.33:1 ratio
1.37:1 ratio
1.66:1 ratio
1.77:1 ratio
1.78:1 ratio
1.85:1 ratio
2.35:1 ratio
English 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
French 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Musical Score 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
French 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo
English 1.0 PCM Mono
French 1.0 PCM Mono
French 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region A
 
 Interviews with Agnès Varda’s children, Rosalie Varda and Mathieu Demy,    Discussion about Varda recorded at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival for the North American premiere of Varda by Agnès, featuring Varda's children Rosalie Varda and Mathieu Demy, director Martin Scorsese, and Telluride Film Festival cofounder Tom Luddy, moderated by Annette Insdorf   Agnès Varda’s Credit Sequences: 2019 video essay on how Varda opens and closes her films, “cinewritten” by Alex Vuillaume-Tylski   Sensing Bodies video essay created in 2019 by French online publication Trois Couleurs   Conversation between director Agnes Varda and her cat Nini was shot in 2019   Trailer for Varda by Agnès   Janus Films Retrospective Trailer   2012 discussion between Agnes Varda and actor-director Mathieu Amalric about La Pointe Courte   2007 video interview with director Agnes Varda   Excerpts from a 1964 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps, in which Agnes Varda discusses her early career   2017 interview with author Jhumpa Lahiri on La Pointe Courte   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Du Côté de la côte   Remembrances (2005), a documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with Agnes Varda and actors Corinne Marchand and Antoine Bourseiller   Excerpt from a 1993 French television program featuring Madonna and Agnes Varda talking about the film   Cléo’s Real Path Through Paris (2005), a short film retracing, on a motorcycle, Cléo’s steps through Paris   The Music of Michel Legrand: video essay made by Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos for FilmStruck in 2016, explores the musical motifs in Cléo from 5 to 7   Trailer for Cléo from 5 to 7   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for L’opéra Mouffe   Agnes Varda on Les fiancés du pont Macdonald   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Les dites cariatides   Les dites cariatides bis   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for T'as de beaux escaliers, tu sais   Rue Daguerre in 2005, Agnès Varda pays visits to neighbors old and new thirty years after she made Daguerréotypes there   Bread, Painting, Accordion: short profile of Agnes Varda’s longtime bakery and accordion shop   Daguerreotypes, Photographic Objects: short video by Agnes Varda of a daguerreotype exhibit in 2005   Footage of an outdoor concert in Paris’s 14th arrondissement in 2005, shot by Agnes Varda   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Le lion volatil   Interview with Agnes Varda from 1998 about Le bonheur   The Two Women of "Le bonheur", a short piece featuring actors Claire Drouot and Marie-Françoise Boyer   Thoughts on "Le bonheur", a discussion between four scholars and intellectuals discussing the concept of happiness and its relation to the film   Two short pieces by Agnes Varda investigating people   Jean-Claude Drouot Returns (2006), a featurette in which the actor revisits the film's setting forty years later   Segment from the 1964 television program Démons et merveilles du cinéma, featuring footage of Varda shooting Le bonheur   Trailer for Le bonheur   2012 introduction by Agnes Varda for Les créatures   Television program covering the production of Les créatures   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Elsa la Rose   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Uncle Yanco   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for The Black Panthers   2014 introduction by Agnes Varda for Lions Love (...and Lies)   Viva Varda!, long-lost 1970 French television interview between Agnes Varda and Lions Love (... and Lies) star Viva   2014 introduction by Agnes Varda for Mur Murs   Two Street Artists, profile of street artists Jérôme Mesnager and Miss.Tic   Trailer for Mur Murs   Nausicaa: 1971 television film by Varda that was ultimately seized and supressed without reason after completion   Women Are Naturally Creative, a 1977 documentary directed by Katja Raganelli, featuring an interview with Agnes Varda shot during the making of the film, plus on-set interviews with actors Valérie Mairesse and Thérèse Liotard   Trailer for One Sings, the Other Doesn't   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Réponse de femmes   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Plaisir d’amour en Iran   Remembrances (2003), a documentary on the making of the film, including interviews with Sandrine Bonnaire and other cast members   The Story of an Old Lady (2003), a short piece in which Agnes Varda revisits actress Martha Jarnias, who plays the old aunt in the film   Music and Dolly Shots, (2003), a conversation between Agnes Varda and composer Joanna Bruzdowicz   A 1986 radio interview with Agnes Varda and writer Nathalie Sarraute, who inspired the film   David Bordwell on the plotting in Vagabond   Trailer for Vagabond   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for 7 p., cuis., s. de b. . . . (à saisir)   2012 introduction by Agnes Varda for Jane B. par Agnès V.   Interview with actor Jane Birkin about her work with director and friend Agnès Varda   Trailer for Jane B. par Agnès V.   2012 introduction by Agnes Varda for Kung-Fu Master!   Interview from 1988 with actor Jane Birkin and director Agnes Varda on the twin releases of their films Jane B. par Agnès V. and Kung-Fu Master! aired on the Swiss television news program Bonsoir   2012 introduction by Agnes Varda for The Young Girls Turn 25   2012 introduction by Agnes Varda for The World of Jacques Demy   A Fun Moment with Michel Piccoli, 2004 interview where Agnes Varda reflects on One Hundred and One Nights and shares footage from an with an on-set interview with Piccoli   Set Visits, Director Agnes Varda narrates this behind-the-scenes footage featuring some stars that make cameo appearances in One Hundred and One Nights, including Marcello Mastroianni, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Deneuve, Robert De Niro, and Alain Delon   Trailer for One Hundred and One Nights   Hands and Objects: on Agnès Varda’s Shorts, a conversation among Anne Huet, Agnes Varda, and critic Alain Berlaga about the director's short films   Excerpts from Varda's unfinished films La melangite and Christmas Carole   1971 commercials for "Collants Minuit" and "Tupperware"   Post-Filmum to "The Gleaners and I"   The Gleaners Museum   Pre-Filmum to "The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later"   Tribute to Zgougou, tribute to Varda's cat   Chance is the Best Assistant: codirectors Agnes Varda and JR discuss the making of Faces Places   "The Beach Cabin" outtake from Faces Places   Codirectors Agnes Varda and JR discuss the music of Faces Places with composer Matthieu Chedid   Trailer for Faces Places   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Salut les cubains   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Ulysse   Une minute pour une image: a selection of photographs accompanied by commentary by intellectuals and artists - the filmmaker herself included - for French television   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Ydessa, les ours et etc   Around Trapeze Artists: 2009 featurette directed by Agnes Varda   Daguerre Beach: 2008 featurette directed by Agnes Varda capturing the creation of the beach in front of her house for The Beaches of Agnès   Scholar Kelley Conway discusses director Agnès Varda’s unique approach to self-representation in The Beaches of Agnès   Trailer for The Beaches of Agnès   Quelques veuves de Noirmoutier: adaptation by Varda of a video installation originally created to accompany L’île et elle, an exhibition she had presented at the Fondation Cartier in Paris into a documentary for ARTE in 2006   Installations: short profiles by highlighting the installation work Agnes Varda did across the world as a visual artist, starting in 2003   A lavishly illustrated 200-page book, featuring notes on the films and essays on Varda’s life and work by writers Amy Taubin, Michael Koresky, Ginette Vincendeau, So Mayer, Alexandra Hidalgo, and Rebecca Bengal, as well as a selection of Agnes Varda’s photography and images of her installation art