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Lions Love

Lions Love

A Feature film by Agnès Varda

Produced by Max L. Raab Productions

Release in France : 09/12/1970

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Actors (9)

Production and distribution (3)

Executive Producer :

Max L. Raab Productions

Film exports/foreign sales :

Roissy Films

Co-production :


TV Broadcasts: Cumulative total

TV broadcasts: details by country


Three blooming film stars, Viva, Jim and Jerry, live in a rented house on the Hollywood hill. They have hair like lions, and will go through a series of events linked to what is going on in the world, like the murdering of Robert Kennedy. Their TV set is the fourth star of the film...



Agnes Varda directed this drama which combines formal dramatic structures with the openness of improvisational cinema verite. Independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke plays an avant-garde film director attempting to work with a major studio to finance her next project, in which she hopes to collaborate with James Rado and Jerome Ragni, creators of the musical "Hair" (who play themselves). She also wants to use Andy Warhol superstar Viva (who also appears as herself) as her leading lady. However, after much give and take between herself and the moneymen, the director learns that the plug has been pulled on her project, pushing her to the brink of suicide. Incorporating newsreel footage and excerpts from the work of poet and playwright Michael McClure into its narrative, Lions Love also features appearances by European screen tough guy Eddie Constantine and noted film writers Carlos Clarens and Peter Bogdanovich, the latter a year after he made his (credited) directorial debut with Targets and two years before his breakthrough with The Last Picture Show.

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There is an exquisite moment of postmodernist self-reflexivity in Agnès Varda’s free-flowing tragicomedy Lions Love. It involves Shirley Clarke, who is playing Shirley Clarke, which is to say, herself, the New York filmmaker of The Connection (1962) and Portrait of Jason (1967), who has come to Hollywood, the town of Desi[l]lusions (what a word-play!), to make a film. During her visit she is staying with the Andy Warhol actress/diva Viva, who is attempting to commercialize her résumé, and her two bungalow-mates, two male actors, all of whom share one bed for the camera that is being womanned by Varda, who is documenting the goings-on (much as the documentarian does in The Connection, although here we have actors, or would-be actors, in lieu of junkies), or pretending to, perhaps, according to a script. At a certain point, when things haven’t panned out, Shirley, the character, is supposed to overdose on sleeping pills. Contrary to what Shirley, the real person, had agreed to, now she doesn’t want to do it! Shirley insists she cares only about her daughter, Wendy, and not about whether she ever makes another film. Finally she relents, enacting her ultimately unsuccessful suicide attempt. During their sparring, Varda slips in front of the camera, and even into bed to perform the scene that Shirley is refusing to perform. But do we know what’s what? Is Shirley’s rebellion really her rebellion or part of Varda’s plan? At the end, when Viva laments not having been given a script for her part in this film, is the lament real or part of the script? Before she completes her American portrait, Varda suggests that U.S. Americans, nurtured on Hollywood movies and culture (not to mention the artificiality that a plastic pineapple represents), are wedded to wars because they cannot distinguish between reality and illusion.
     Devastating: in this color film, the black-and-white television coverage of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination and immediate aftermath. (The TV set has been put into mourning, with a black cloth draping its top and sides.) Viva and her apartment-mates are glued to the screen, but the reality that unfolds there seems unreal—a national nightmare, which Coretta Scott King’s televised reaction, so shortly after her own loss, painfully deepens.
     Dazzling, with one passage expressing Varda’s great love of children, this film celebrates humanity—and warmly embraces the influences of Godard, Rivette, and Vera Chytilovà’s Daisies (1967).

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Photos (2)

Full credits (4)

Producers :

Agnès Varda, Max L. Raab

Director of Photography :

Stevan Larner

Screenwriter :

Agnès Varda

Music Composer :

Joseph Byrd

Technical details

Feature film

Genres :

Fiction, Experimental

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Production language :


Coproducer countries :

United States, France

Original French-language productions :


Nationality :

Minority French (United States, France)

Production year :


French release :


Runtime :

1 h 50 min

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Posters (1)


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