Agnès Varda • Director of Varda by Agnès
“I’m fed up with talking about my own films and my own work”
by Kaleem Aftab
- We caught up with seasoned French director Agnès Varda in order to discuss her Berlinale-premiered master-class film Varda by Agnès
Agnès Varda said at the Berlin Film Festival, where her new film, Varda by Agnès [+see also:
interview: Agnès Varda
film profile], bowed, that she had decided to make a documentary in the form of a master class because at the ripe age of 90, she no longer had the energy to travel around the globe presenting her movies and herself. Her cancellation of her trip to the ongoing Qumra in Doha because of ill health is the first sign of that. She says that from now on, she will not do one-on-one interviews and will only do press conferences, if that. Here, in her own words, taken from a recent interview and the Berlin press conference for the movie, Varda explains her appreciation of the interest that people are taking in her work at this late stage of her career, and the rationale behind Varda by Agnès.
Cineuropa: What was the idea behind Varda by Agnès?
Agnès Varda: I’ve done a lot of talks everywhere – in universities, in film schools, at festivals, in all kinds of places, and even in small film societies. I thought I should now do a film that would be a talk. I spoke so much during my last round of talks that I will no longer agree to do talks, I will no longer do person-to-person interviews, and I will only do press conferences.
The film is split into two parts, the 20th-century analogue years and the 21st-century digital years. You seem to talk about this in different places in the film.
The first lecture took place in Angers, at the Premiers Plans Film Festival, and during the festival, they took me to a big, beautiful theatre with a lot of red velvet. The second part was done in the garden of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris.
You use the film to look back at your career: what would you say is the key component of your work?
Well, I’m immensely fascinated by people – people in the street, people in my street. Wherever I travel, wherever I work, I really have the feeling that it’s interesting to approach people, but mostly the ones on the margins, the people we don’t speak about that much in cinema. As you know, I made a film about a cleaner, I made a film about squatters, the first movie I made was with a fisherman, and with JR and Faces Places [+see also:
film profile] we went into the country. I think that so many important people have too much light shone on them.
Is this film a way for you to put your affairs in order and prepare for posterity, and to say adieu, in some way?
I’m fed up with talking about my own films and my own work. I speak a lot in my own films, and I’ve been documenting myself in my last five movies. In them, I spoke about me, I spoke about my memories and I said what I wanted to say. As you know, I’m very interested in other people, and I think all of the people I have met have been so important to me, and so I should stop speaking about myself. I should start preparing myself to say goodbye and to go away. It’s fine – it’s about slowing down in order to get the necessary peace.
What is your place in French cinema? Are you part of the New Wave?
The New Wave is a label we gave the films afterwards in order to give a name to the new cinema that appeared at the end of the 1950s. I wasn’t friends with anyone at Cahiers du Cinéma, and I wasn’t in the group; we weren’t part of this conversation. It was a troupe, like the surrealists. I wasn’t like the others. Even if I liked the films, especially Jacques Demy and his movies, the music had a childlike quality. And then the New Wave term came about because it was practical to package and pigeonhole us like that, and it’s true that there were no women.
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