Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Agnes Varda: Cleo de 5 a 7

Assignment: Required Reading and Writing

Read these two pieces on Varda, which give some insights into her philosophy and process.

A recent interview:

How Varda Invented the New Wave:

What I want you to write in response to these articles isn't a direct critique, but a sort of creative response to some of Varda's film-making methods. In one of the below "recommended" readings, Varda is quoted as saying Cleo from 5 to 7 is "“the portrait of a woman painted onto a documentary about Paris.” You can get a sense from "How Agnes Varda Invented the New Wave" that this was a method that is also related to her first film, La Pointe Courte, where she inserted two fictional characters into an almost ethnographic portrait of a fishing village. You couldn't really reduce it to a formula, but in these films there is an interchange between a real place, closely and scrupulously observed, and a character who passes through or inhabits that place.

I'd like you to write two or three paragraphs about a place you know well, that you could imagine being an interesting setting for a film. What is the place, and what are the small, authentic details you would include, to give a realistic feel of that place? Who are the sorts of people you'd ordinarily encounter there? What are the sights, sounds, smells, social rituals there?

And then, in a final paragraph, I'd like you to imagine a fictional character who might find herself/himself there. I'm not asking for you to spin a whole plot for a film -- just describe a real place, and give a sense of who this fictional visitor to the place might be. We can let the rest of this "movie" play out in our own minds.

Recommended Reading/Viewing

A Varda overview:

Cleo and time:

Cleo and Vagabond (this might be a good reference as a comparison of two films, the sort of thing you'll be doing for the midterm):

A Varda-directed Black Panthers documentary (in french -- it can be seen in English at the mubi.com link below, for $1):


A short film by Varda, Plaisirs d'amour en Iran:


Varda on Netflix instant view:

The Beaches of Agnes
The Gleaners and I
Cleo from 5 to 7

Varda on mubi.com (many of her more obscure films can be seen here, from $1 to $3 bucks a pop):


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