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French films review - June 2019

A critical eye on the latest ciné releases. This month, Varda by Agnès, and Victor et Célia

Varda by Agnès - Agnès Varda; 83 mins

When the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) director Agnès Varda died in March this year, France lost a giant of its film-making industry.

Despite having no huge commercial successes, her wisdom, influence and reputation spanned the world – The Guardian called her “the eternally youthful soul of world cinema”.

Anyone new to her oeuvre might pick a classic such as her 1985 homelessness drama Vagabond or Jacquot de Nantes, her touching 1991 tribute to husband Jacques Démy, to begin a posthumous retrospective.

And her 2008 philosophical, autobiographical documentary The Beaches of Agnès holds up a gleaming rear-view mirror to her life and creative times as she visits her favourite beaches.

However, such was her energy and creativity right until the end of her life (she lived to the age of 90) that her most recent release, this year’s two-hour-long Varda by Agnès, is an entirely accessible entry point.

It is a kind of lecture on her own life and working practices (the making of Vagabond is analysed) – and she appears before the camera a lot.

Varda would probably like it that viewers new to her work begin with this film – beginning at the end and working their way backwards in time to explore her fascinating and diverse career.


Also out: 

Victor et Célia

A knockabout comedy with two charming lead performers, Arthur Dupont and Alice Belaïdi, about thirtysomething former lovers who decide to open a Paris salon de coiffure... and fall in love all over again.

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