Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Les Plages d'Agnès" ("The Beaches of Agnès")

Les Plages d’Agnès

"Les Plages d’Agnès" won the César for best documentary, though the film defies categorization. While Varda revisits nearly all of her films in the 110-minute feature with clips and commentary, she also reflects on her life’s pleasures, sorrows, dreams and fantasies. Several times she makes old photographs new on film by finding actors to play herself as a child and as a young woman. She then interacts and poses with them in New Wave style—never shying away from showing the director directing, or revealing the camera to the camera. This approach is not a jarring demystification of cinema as it was in the 60s. In this autobiographical film that traces the mind of Varda, the mise-en-abyme welcomes the audience and then holds them deep inside a rich imagination. In this way, "Les Plages d’Agnès" liberates cinema from common formulas and paradigms, and offers Varda the ultimate expression. Mortality is especially present in several of the film’s most poignant moments; while Varda throws single red roses at photographs she took in the 50s of great actors from the National Theater, she sobs that although the photographs give others happiness, they bring her a sense of sorrow because these great actors once young and beautiful are now dead and gone. The death of her late husband, Jacques Demy, from AIDS is a returning source of sadness in the film, and the viewer feels the stark loneliness of turning 80 alone. However, "Les Plages d’Agnès" spirals and circles through reality and art, past work and celebrity encounters, never dwelling on death or its proximity. Agnès Varda, the wise fairy, guides us through a self-portrait of her creativity, celebrating the joy of life and its pains in equal measure.

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