The great idiosyncratic original of the French nouvelle vague generation, Agnès Varda began her career as a photographer and, in her use of the medium, remains one at heart. Features and documentaries are equally characterized by a fascination with the found and the serendipitous, capturing the momentary and pondering the ways in which memory becomes something tangibleor the way memory shapes the world. The interplay of past and presenttypical of Vardas first-person essaysreaches its apogee with The Beaches of Agnèsa memoir drawing on the 81-year-old artists films and photographs, as well as her recollections. Its also a vehicle: Im playing the role of a little old lady, talkative and plump, she tells us up front. A stylized creaturesmall and sturdy, with bowl-cut hair and a proud baton of a noseVarda is, to some degree, self-invented (having changed her name as a teenager from the ultra-French Arlette to the more austere Agnès) and highly self-aware. The artist re-creates childhood tableaux using old family photos; redeploys footage of her first meeting with her Greek relations; and revisits homes of her youth. The Beaches of Agnès documents Vardas artistic growth, along with her life, as she evolves from bustling scene-maker to self-conscious autobiographer. But mainly, the film is benignly haunted by her late husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy.
Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2009