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French New Wave Pioneer Agnès Varda Explores ‘The Beaches’ Of Her Life

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The Beaches of Agnes (Les plages d’Agnèsis), the latest documentary from legendary French New Wave filmmaker Agnès Varda (Cleo from 5 to 7), is finally being released in the U.S. after being shown in France last year. The film is a sprawling autobiographical account of Varda’s life and art, done in a whimsical style. Beaches opened in New York on July 1, but it’s still unclear whether Cinema Guild, it’s US distributor, is planning a wider release.

This is Varda’s first major work since The Gleaners and I (Les glaneurs et la glaneuse) in 2000, which was such a big hit in France that she did a follow-up in 2002. Gleaners remains a playful, heartfelt and surprisingly moving documentary about poverty in France and the director’s own mortality.

As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall of 2002, I was lucky enough to catch a screening of it with Ms. Varda on hand to introduce the film and answer questions afterwards. Wanting to break the the silence of the room during the Q & A session, I decided to raise my hand. When she motioned towards me, I realized that I hadn’t even thought of a question to ask.

The only thing that came to mind was, “How did you meet the people in the documentary?” With the classic French look of confusion and pity on her face, she graciously replied in a thick accent, “I don’t know. How to do you meet anyone? You just go out and things happen.” I then sheepishly sat down.

Needless to say, the film speaks for itself. Link to Manohla Dargis‘ New York Times review of Beaches here. See the trailers for Beaches, as well as The Gleaners and I, Cleo from 5 to 7 and Vagabond, below.

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