The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

#101 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Aug 17, 2020 10:17 am

I have almost all of Varda's films already. Also thinking that maybe, for now, I should just be satisfied with what I already have.

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HitchcockLang
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Re: The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

#102 Post by HitchcockLang » Wed Aug 19, 2020 3:19 pm

Watched the first three shorts. I used the "Chronological" listing in the back of the book but I don't think it's entirely accurate. It says the order is Du côté de la côte, then Ô saisons, ô châteaux (even though they are presented in the opposite order on the disc menu) and finally L'opéra-mouffe right before Cléo. This is the order in which I watched them but I also watched the supplements and listening to Varda's introductions to each film, it is clear that (at least in her own recollection), she made Ô saisons, ô châteaux first by an invitation she almost turned down, then she made L'opéra-mouffe as a means of exploring her own art in a way that interested her between travel films, and then finally Du côté de la côte again as an invitation and based on the strength of Ô saisons, ô châteaux. Somewhere in there should also be La cocotte d'azur but it seems to be one of the few missing pieces from the "Complete" films (is it a lost film? or tied up in rights? or just far too insignificant even for a retrospective box set?).

Not sure what the confusion is between Varda's account and the chronological listing in the book but I suppose these things happen. Anyone else planning to watch chronologically, you may want to follow Varda's order. Checking the regular user-contributed sources like Wikipedia and IMDb suggests there's a lot of uncertainty on the order of these films (perhaps they were completed in a different order than they were released?) Is there a definitive book on Varda's career/biography?

I enjoyed the two travel films quite well for what they are. Once again, I think Varda's experience as a photographer benefits her immensely as she fills the films with lovely and interesting shots, a variety of angles and motions (I was especially a big fan of the "whip tilt" shots that revealed surprising buildings on unusual foundations). Otherwise, they are definitely a bit of fun and dated fluff.

L'opéra-mouffe was surprisingly surreal to me (reminding me a bit of David Lynch and Un Chien Andalou). I am impressed with the variety of styles and experimentation that Varda undertook so early in her career when she claimed to have seen no more than ten films and didn't even enjoy most of them. I found myself most emotionally struck by the imagery of elderly people wandering the streets juxtaposed with the narration about the innocence and optimism of newborn infants. I noticed many of the older faces seem perplexed or even annoyed by the camera. I imagine Varda filmed them without their consent, which lends the film a greater documentary realism.

Next is Cléo but I have strict orders not to watch anything included in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die without my wife and she is a bit busy at the moment so it may be a few days before I get to it. I am looking forward to it though.
Last edited by HitchcockLang on Wed Aug 19, 2020 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Saturnome
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Re: The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

#103 Post by Saturnome » Wed Aug 19, 2020 4:06 pm

HitchcockLang wrote:
Wed Aug 19, 2020 3:19 pm
Somewhere in there should also be La cocotte d'azur but it seems to be one of the few missing pieces from the "Complete" films (is it a lost film? or tied up in rights? or just far too insignificant even for a retrospective box set?)
Not sure why it's not included. It's sometimes shown in cinematheques. As I said a few posts above, it's an unusual case of Varda making fun of people, being a step away from them and observing, instead of being completely involved with them. And with what is included in the set, it's far from too insignificant. It's pretty un-Verda like though, maybe Varda hated it even more than Les Créatures?

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Adam X
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Re: The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

#104 Post by Adam X » Thu Aug 20, 2020 4:43 am

I can't shed any more light on the 'why', but it wasn't included in Ciné-tamaris' Tout(e) Varda box set either. While I'm torn on buying this set too, thanks to the colour-timing issues, I imagine I'll get it anyway, to finally be able to see subtitled versions of Nausicaa & Quelques Veuves de Noirmoutier.

On the chronology of her films, I can dig out & post the films as listed in the French box set if you like. I'd imagine any discrepencies between Varda's recollections and the listed chronology in the CC box set could be down as much to delayed release dates as her memory of events. I don't think it's been stated, but I think Agnès Varda's one director where watching her films in chronological order can be really interesting not just from an auteurist perspective, but due to her returning to and reexamining people, places & events in later films as she grew older.

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filmyfan
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Re: The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

#105 Post by filmyfan » Mon Aug 24, 2020 11:53 am

HitchcockLang wrote:
Wed Aug 19, 2020 3:19 pm
Next is Cléo but I have strict orders not to watch anything included in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die without my wife and she is a bit busy at the moment so it may be a few days before I get to it. I am looking forward to it though.
You are in for a treat!

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HitchcockLang
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Re: The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

#106 Post by HitchcockLang » Tue Aug 25, 2020 2:52 pm

filmyfan wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 11:53 am
HitchcockLang wrote:
Wed Aug 19, 2020 3:19 pm
Next is Cléo but I have strict orders not to watch anything included in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die without my wife and she is a bit busy at the moment so it may be a few days before I get to it. I am looking forward to it though.
You are in for a treat!
You weren't kidding! My wife and I finally got around to watching Cléo and wow! I can't really think of anything to say about it that hasn't already been said to the point of exhaustion. Most of the things I noticed are well documented and widely accepted (even covered in the supplements on the disc). I will say the supplement on Michel Legrand's thematic and structural uses of music is a must-watch video essay. I love his music anyway (Umbrellas of Cherbourg is easily a top 10 film for me) and his style is quite easy to recognize in Cléo. I was especially enthralled by the climactic centerpiece scene when Cléo is singing her song just before her transformation. Overall, one of the most hypnotic films I've seen in a long time. Could have easily watched it a second time as soon as it ended.

My wife and I do have a slightly different read of the ending which may or may not be worth discussion here:
SpoilerShow
I found the doctor's quick revelation of the big news from his car to be quite a crass moment (for his character, not for the film). He doesn't even ever really confirm that she has cancer, but merely tells her what the next step is. He rattles this off quickly, tells her not to worry (essentially erasing the gravity of her last two agonizing hours with the wave of a hand), and then speeds off. To me this seemed to promote the otherwise prevalent gender themes, showing how the doctor (a man) does not value Cléo's trauma or grief and does not even spend the time to break the news carefully. My wife disagreed and found the doctor's approach to be exactly the right thing for Cléo at the moment and that by his decision to treat it so lightly, he was taking away the power of the diagnosis to continue to cause grief. By trivializing cancer, he empowers Cléo to emotionally conquer her own grief. My wife asserts this is why Cléo is happy at the end. I like my wife's reading but I still don't care for the doctor's attitude and I would credit her happiness to the fact that she wasn't really grieving illness/death so much as uncertainty, and now that she is certain, she can move on despite the doctor's insensitivity. I don't think this is even close to the most significant bit of the film but it was the only thing that hasn't been beaten to death I could find to bring to the table.
I also watched Les fiancés du pont MacDonald from the same disc, not realizing until it began that it is the same short from the middle of Cléo with, as far as I could tell, no differences from the version within the feature other than the credits. I found it to be an enjoyable silent gag film in the spirit of Buster Keaton (who Varda references along with Lloyd in her 2007 introduction). It looked like a lot of fun among friends. Within Cléo, it was an interesting extension of the real-time element as most films would cut away while characters were watching a film, but showing an entire short was a fascinating choice (though I did not think it was necessary for what Varda intended it for--as a means of interjecting entertainment into a dead spot in the film).

Then I watched Salut les cubains. My knowledge of Cuban revolutionary history is quite thin, but I was surprised by the overwhelming positivity of the film (almost to the point of propaganda) but found Varda's own comments in her introduction interesting. She has definitely distanced herself from Castro and insists the film must be taken in context of 1962. It seems like there may be a tinge of regret in her voice. Politics aside, I found it a very enjoyable work of art to watch. It seemed to encapsulate history, politics and culture in a love-letter like way. I particularly enjoyed the rhythmic editing of the photos during the musical sequences to create such a sense of life and motion out of still photographs. I wonder if she was inspired by Chris Marker's La Jetée (or vice versa) with the photo-roman form. I imagine they would have known each other since they're both part of the Left Bank group?

Anyway, I don't know if my little nuggets as I discover Varda chronologically are interesting or valuable to anyone or if my insights are far too anemic, but I'm certainly looking forward to continue my deep dive in this box set.

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knives
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Re: The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

#107 Post by knives » Tue Aug 25, 2020 2:56 pm

A lot of her political works from this time have that uncritical propagandist edge to them. I suspect it's because she's an artist who tends not to be overly critical of her subjects leading to a certain kind of left wing naivety.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

#108 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Sep 28, 2020 8:00 am

I encountered something rather odd when watching Varda's debut feature La Pointe Courte on the Criterion Channel yesterday afternoon. Earlier in the week, I saw Episode Three of Mark Cousins' Women Make Film documentary series in which excerpts from the Varda film were used in the segment concerning creative tracking shots. One excerpt showed a particular bravura shot of the camera passing through a bottomless basket left on a beach as it tracked the young married couple. The version of the film showing on the Channel truncates this shot to remove the section where the camera passes through the basket! The continuity really isn't affected, but the loss of this footage undercuts what appears to be a little visual gag where the wife finds the bottom of the basket further along on the beach and tosses it into the water (which appears to be a direct comment on the basket not having a bottom which is only properly shown in the deleted footage).

I'm assuming the "camera passing through the basket" footage is also missing from the box set version of the feature, right? According to the on-screen notes at the beginning of the film, the title was restored in 2013 under Varda's supervision, years before Cousins would have assembled his documentary. Did he end up using an older print of the film that contained a shot that Varda decided to eliminate in 2013?

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J Wilson
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Re: The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

#109 Post by J Wilson » Mon Sep 28, 2020 1:14 pm

Roger, the Criterion set coming out made me get out my Tout(e) Varda set to try and finally get through more of it, so after seeing your post I popped in La Pointe Courte and the basket shot is intact there. The Tout(e) Varda box came out in 2012, so as you said, she presumably removed it after that. Kind of an odd thing to tweak.

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