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29 March 2019 à 16:51

UniFrance pays tribute to Agnès Varda

She was one of the most, if not the most, powerful women's voices in French cinema of the past sixty years. Agnès Varda passed away yesterday at the age of ninety. During her long career, Varda rose to become an international icon, loved and admired from the United States to Japan, Mexico to Norway, for the intelligence and poetry of her artistic vision as a photographer and filmmaker, but also for the tireless battle she fought throughout her life for the empowerment of women.

Messages of condolence and support have been pouring in from all over the world to rue Daguerre in Paris—where Agnès Varda had lived for several decades—ever since the announcement of her death on March 29, 2019.

Varda began her career as a professional photographer, working for the TNP (Théâtre National Populaire) run by Jean Vilar before becoming a film director. She was a pioneer of the New Wave, with her film La Pointe Courte of 1955 considered the very first film of this initially French then international movement that shook up the foundations of filmmaking, viewing cinema as an art form that was free of boundaries, independent, and liberated.

An inveterate traveler, Varda continued until the last months of her life to crisscross the globe to meet with new audiences. Her poetic approach to filmmaking and the universal language she used, expressed in a mischievous and amusing style, gave her films a broad appeal and wide recognition, with titles including Cleo from 5 to 7, Le Bonheur / Happiness, One Sings, the Other Doesn't, Vagabond, The Gleaners and I, and her most recent production made in collaboration with the photographer JR, Faces, Places, which has been released in around forty countries.

UniFrance was lucky to have the opportunity to travel with Agnès Varda regularly—to Japan, the United States, and China, among other destinations. Everywhere Varda went, she engaged in passionate dialogue with loyal and attentive audiences. In recent years, we notably accompanied her to New York for the Rendez-Vous With French Cinema, and we were by her side in Hollywood a year later when she received an honorary Oscar for her life's work. During the Academy Awards ceremony, Varda even danced a few steps with Angelina Jolie and posed for photographs with her friend Steven Spielberg. Just weeks ago she was at the Berlin International Film Festival, where her documentary Varda by Agnès was presented in a world premiere.

The "Little Lady of rue Daguerre," who was fiercely independent and tremendously loyal, leaves behind her a formidable cinematic and artistic legacy—she took great joy in presenting installations of her work in galleries and museums in Paris, Los Angeles, and elsewhere—as well as a decisive moral and ethical legacy, with her voice as a woman artist one of the most active and tenacious of the past sixty years. Here, too, Varda was a pioneer and a fighter.

Serge Toubiana, president of UniFrance, who knew Agnès Varda well, acknowledged "her artistic intelligence and singularity, allied with her insatiable curiosity. She knew how to connect and communicate with her audiences, all around the world, in a way that nobody else has. It is as if her films speak to us on a very personal level, showing us the world and physical life in an unprecedented way. I will always remember a trip I made with her to Beijing in 2004. This was her second trip to China after first visiting the country in 1958. We were in the main theater of the China Film Archive getting ready for an evening presentation in which her film Jacquot was to be screened. While the projectionist was doing some tests, Agnès suddenly heard the voice of Jacques Demy, who was on screen, and fainted at the sound of the voice of the man she had loved so dearly. I had to help her regain consciousness; it was like she was coming back from a dream."

For Isabelle Giordano, UniFrance's executive director, "Agnes Varda was one of the few French filmmakers who managed to make the originality of her cinema known all around the world. Her work retains a strong appeal to all kinds of audiences, no matter what country, no matter what generation. I also remember her generosity toward young American students, and when we were in New York the good-hearted way in which she embraced her role as ambassador of French cinema as a whole, and particularly of our up-and-coming French women filmmakers."

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Latest update : 02 April 2019 à 16:51 CEST

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Rendez-Vous With French Cinema à New York - 2017

Type : UniFrance festival

Theme : French films


Berlin International Film Festival - 2019

Type : Feature film and short film festival

Theme : All films