TIFF review: Varda By Agnes

The French cinema icon's final film is less a celebration than a passing on of wisdom

VARDA BY AGNÈS SPEC D: Agnès Varda. France. 115 min. Sep 6, 11:30 am, TIFF 1. Rating: NNNN

If you’ve never seen a Varda movie, her last shouldn’t be your first. In this essayistic film, the French cinema icon and visual artist who died at age 90 in March revisits her biggest successes and failures, exploring the relationships, aesthetic pleasures and political beliefs that not only informed her conceptual thinking, but specific technical and creative choices.

Structured around a series of public talks – solo and featuring collaborators like actor Sandrine Bonnaire – Varda is full of typically fascinating, funny and melancholy reflections.

But if you’re new to her work, this film might spoil the joys of experiencing films like Cléo de 5 à 7, The Beaches Of Agnès and Faces Places for the first time. Off the top she extols the importance of “sharing” as a filmmaker and the collective experience of watching a movie with an audience.

Though already being called a “eulogy,” Varda By Agnès is less a celebration than a passing on of wisdom. She knew a good story when she saw one and, as one project led to another, her particular – and political – way of thinking found beauty and greatness in unlikely places and encouraged everyone to take part.

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