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Entries in Agnes Varda (26)

Friday
Jun192015

Women's Pictures - Agnes Varda's Le Bonheur

If there’s one kind of first film I love watching above all others, it’s the first color movie by a director previously confined to black and white. Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis, Powell & Pressburger’s The Thief of Baghdad, and Akira Kurosawa’s Dodes'ka-den are colorful extravaganzas by directors who, though already well-respected for their monochrome movies, will master this new filmmaking tool. The film is even better when that director, like the aforementioned Kurosawa or our director of the month Agnes Varda, is an artist. Le Bonheur is not Agnes Varda’s best film. It’s not even her best film of the 1960s. But if you want to witness an hour and a half of experimentation with how color reflects and refracts a movie’s theme, then Le Bonheur is the film you want to watch.

For a brightly-colored movie with the title “Happiness,” Le Bonheur is remarkably cruel. Perhaps this accounts for its reputation as one of Agnes Varda’s most controversial movies. Or perhaps it is because, after the empathetic female-centric Cleo from 5 to 7, Varda chose to tell a story about a man who treats the women in his life so poorly. François Chevalier (Jean-Claude Drouot) is a carefree carpenter living in idyllic marital bliss with his wife, Thérèse (Claire Drouot), and their two children. When François meets a new postal worker named Émilie (Marie-France Boyer), he falls immediately into love with her as well. The majority of the film is spent following François from his wife to his mistress and back again, as he guiltlessly and guilelessly adds to his happiness by spending time with each woman. When François finally tells his wife, her reaction is surprising and tragic.

What’s more surprising, though, is how little her tragedy means to the conclusion of the story. Since its release in 1965, Le Bonheur has been subject to many different interpretations by critics, however, Varda’s use of color commentary - of color as commentary - spells out her intent. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun112015

Women's Pictures: Agnes Varda's Cléo From 5 to 7

 Cléo from 5 to 7 is easily Agnes Varda's most famous film. In a retrospective honoring Varda at the 2013 AFI Fest - my introduction to the dimunitive director - iconic photos of Corinne Marchand, ice cold in her black shades, were spread across signs and billboards on Hollywood Blvd. The highlight of the festival was a discussion with Varda before a screening of the film. During the discussion, Varda expressed disappointment that, of all her films, Cleo from 5 to 7 was the best-remembered. In a way, it's not so surprising. As Varda herself noted, the film was the result of a request by some of the New Wave directors that she make another fiction film in 1962. As a result, Cléo from 5 to 7 is actually the most easily categorizable film in Varda's ouvre. This is pure French New Wave, cerebral and cinematic, but containing those artistic flourishes that can only belong to Agnes Varda.

Cléo from 5 to 7 takes place over the course of a single afternoon, as a young singer (the eponymous heroine played by Corinne Marchand) waits to hear the results of a biopsy. Cleo is shallow, vain, and beautiful, kept by a rich gentleman who visits infrequently, and surrounded by sycophantic showpeople, superstitious assistants, and equally shallow friends. The mundanities of Cleo's life gain sudden symbolic importance with the shadow of death looming over her. A pop song becomes an anthem of discovery. A hat becomes an emblem of vanity. A walk down the street becomes a war between observer and observed. [More...]

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Thursday
Jun042015

Women's Pictures: Agnes Varda's La Pointe Courte

When Agnes Varda was honored at Cannes in May, a lot of titles were tossed around: Ancestor of the French New Wave, New Wave's Godmother/Mother/etc. But I began to wonder: how accurate are those titles? Can we safely lump Agnes Varda, photographer-cum-director-cum-documentarian, into the French New Wave boys club? After all, the New Wave conjurs very specific images: detached Frenchmen smoking cigarettes in black and white, long takes, jarring edits, staged closeups and jazz soundtracks. Does this mesh with our dimunitive director?

More seriously, the French New Wave represents a specific group of radical individuals. They were cinephiles and critics whose radical new ideas came from a love of film, and a conscious decision to reject classical cinema. Varda, by contrast, freely admits that she'd almost never seen a film before her 1955 debut, La Pointe Courte. So is she New Wave? Ur-New Wave? In parallel or in contrast? I don't have the answers yet, I just have a Hulu+ account and some books on French Film. It's going to be a hell of a month.

La Pointe Courte is an improbable film debut.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
May232015

Cannes Red Carpet Lineup: Auteur Couture and Formal Turbans

More Cannes fashion madness...

MARGARET: We're back on the red carpet. bringing you the latest in movie star couture though we're a solid ten hours behind the proceedings. (And more since Nathaniel randomly selects gowns from multiple premieres)


ANNE MARIE
: So glad I could sweep in at the last moment. I've been enjoying the Red Carpet you, Nathaniel, & Jose have been having over the past few weeks! And the best part of doing a Red Carpet Round up is that nobody throws you out for wearing the wrong shoes!

MARGARET: Cannes in particular always brings in a satisfying range of stylist-curated glam to nonchalant idiosyncracy. Which brings us to Agnes Varda, looking very much herself in... what would you call that ensemble?

ANNE MARIE: Varda chic? Auteur Couture? The advantage of being a living legend presented with awards from one of the most internationally acclaimed film festivals is that you can dress however the hell you want. This is pretty similar to what she wore when I saw her at AFI fest two years ago.

MARGARET: Watch that two-tone hairstyle get picked up by some trendsetting model and suddenly be all the rage among the young & hip.

ANNE MARIE: I have a theory that her hair looks like that because she was dipped in the river Seine like a French Achilles, and the only part of her that wasn't submerged was the top of her head. (This would also be a good time to announce that Agnes Varda will be the focus of next month's Women's Pictures, because we love her almost as much as Cannes does.)

MARGARET:  Now let's look at this collection of ladies bringing the color: Mindy, Sienna, Andie, and Jane. If I squint at the miniature, I can imagine each of their gowns as a fun piece of accent jewelry.

 

Click to read more ...

Monday
May112015

Tra-Link-La

Deadline RIP character actress Elizabeth Wilson from stage, tv, and film (Roz in Nine to Five & Mrs Braddock inThe Graduate!) passed away at 94
Bryan Singer James McAvoy as Professor X finally going bald of X-Men: Apocalypse
Towleroad Natalie Portman as Ruth Baader Ginsburg?! 
CHUD the ongoing drama of Jennifer Lawrence's paycheck for the upcoming Passengers, a sci-fi drama with Chris Pratt. She's not budging on her 20 million,which is double Pratt's salary though he's the lead. Will Sony cave to save face from all those wage disparity complaints after leaked emails?
Boy Culture tells us about a new LGBT movie That's Not Us about three couples on a weekend getaway. Sounds good
Empire Charlize Theron to star as a spy in The Coldest City, based on a graphic novel
Pajiba highlights from the Alex Garland's Ex Machina AMA 
Antagony & Ecstasy another fine take on Ex Machina 

Small Screen
Coming Soon NBC picked up a series based on Steven Spielberg's Minority Report. I know it was probably impossible to top Samantha Morton's precog but the series will focus on a precog only a male precog zzzz. No offense Stark Sands who I've enjoyed in other things!
/Film ... and that's not the only movie becoming a TV series. Next season will also give us serialized versions ofUncle Buck and Limitless 

Cannes News
Cannes Mother of the French New Wave Agnès Varda (Cleo from 5 to 7, Vagabond, The Gleaners and I) to receive an Honorary Palme D'Or. Yaaas.
Film Doctor UK advice for filmmakers attending Cannes -- this is from last year but there are lots of practical thoughts that apply to any year, non filmmakers and other smaller festivals, too
Guardian with Gaspar Noé's Love on the way a look back at the festival's history of erotic cinema
Awards Daily Sasha geers up for Cannes but still seems hung up on last year's awards race dramas

Stage
Playbill looks back at very tight Best Musical races from the past (West Side Story vs. The Music Man, etcetera) with Fun Home, Something Rotten, and An American in Paris battling it out on Tony supremacy this season
Gold Derby Outer Critics Circle Awards. With Fun Home ineligible American in Paris snatches up trophies. Kristin Chenoweth prevails in the very tight Best Actress race (will Tony go for Chita, Cheno or Kelli O'Hara?)

Showtune to Go
With American in Paris celebrating its Tony nominations, why not a little Gene Kelly to brighten your Monday? Here's Kelly doing "Tra La La." Hollywood never had a more cheekily charming male movie star, give or take Cary Grant.

Thursday
Feb262015

Women's Pictures - Vote For Your Favorite Female Filmmakers!

Hello, it's Anne Marie. Since the first month of "Women's Pictures" went so well (and because I have an extra week in February to fill), today I would like to hear from all of you charming readers and commenters. When I first asked for suggestions of female filmmakers on which to focus this series, you all chimed in with over 50 directors from 8 countries and 9 decades in movie history. We can't write about all of them (yet), so I've narrowed the list down to 10 Female Filmmakers. Please know that this is not meant as a list of the best 10 female directors. When winnowing down the original suggestions, I took into consideration size of filmography, ease of access to their films, and reader interest. The goal is to find 10 women within those restrictions who represent a variety of genre, vision, nationality, sexuality, and focus. And these 10 women are pretty incredible. 

Vote for as many as you like and tell us why in the comments

In alphabetical order, our ladies are...

Dorothy Arzner - Years active: 1927-1943. Arzner is best known as the "only female director during Hollywood's Golden Age" (more on that at the end of this post). Arzner was a lesbian proto-feminist credited with (among other things) inventing the boom mic, looking dapper in menswear, and dressing Katharine Hepburn in that bizarre Moth Gown. Best known films: The Wild Party, The Bride Wore Red, Christopher Strong.

Kathryn Bigelow - Years active: 1981-present. I mean, we all know who Kathryn Bigelow is, right? She's the only female director to win an Academy Award so far! (For The Hurt Locker in 2010.) Divorced James Cameron in 1991 and beat him for Best Director two decades later. Makes action films, war films, and defies silly questions about what kinds of movies women "usually make."  Best known films: The Hurt Locker, Point Break, Zero Dark Thirty

Jane Campion - Years active: 1982-present. For her film The Piano, native Kiwi Jane Campion was the first female director to win the Palm D'Or at Cannes, and became the second woman in the history of the Academy Awards to be nominated for Best Director. Most recently, she returned to the scene of her earlier triumph to be the head judge for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Best known films: The Piano, Bright Star, Sweetie

Sofia Coppola - Years active: 1999-present. Another fruit that fell from the ever-blossoming Coppola family tree. In 2004, Sofia Coppola became the third woman in Oscars history to be nominated for Best Director for her film Lost In Translation. Since then, she's taken on everything from historical fiction to memoir to true crime, all with a distinct pop art sensibility. Best known films: The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette.

Mira Nair - Years active: 1979-present. Indian director Mira Nair has had a globe-trotting career over the past few decades. She's made documentaries, big budget Indian movies, indie films set in the American South, period pieces, shorts and more. About the most consistent thing you can say about Nair's career is that she's consistently refused to be tied to just one genre. Best known films: Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair, Salaam Bombay!

Miwa Nishikawa - Years active: 2003-present. Miwa Nishikawa is the newest addition to this list, having only 7 films and a little over a decade of experience so far. However, while her movies haven't travelled much outside of Japan yet, she is already heralded as a strong new voice in Japanese film. (Thank you, reader BRB for the suggestion!) Best known films: Dreams for Sale, Dear Doctor, Wild Strawberries. 

Leni Riefenstahl - Years active: 1932-1958, 2002. Best known for her Nazi propadanda film, The Triumph of the Will. It was supposedly so well-made that when the US government requested that Hollywood re-edit the movie to show Germany negatively, they were told it couldn't be done. She pushed forward documentary film & experimented with genre. Best known films (besides that one): Olympia, Lowlands, Underwater Impressions.

Julie Taymor - Years active: 1999-present. This MacArthur Genius Grant recipient is a theater director-turned film director-turned theater director who turned off the dark (and the safety precautions) for Spiderman on Broadway. Before that, she turned lions into puppets for Disney's The Lion King. Her films are visually vibrant, beautiful, and totally bonkers. Best known films: Frida, Across The Universe, Titus.

Agnes Varda - Years active: 1955-2011. The only female member of the talented boys club that was the French New Wave. Varda was an artist before making her way to film, a journey for which she attributes her unique perspective. She's still alive and kicking (and occasionally at film festivals), but seems to be enjoying resting on her well-deserved laurels now. Best known films: Cleo from 5 to 7, Vagabond, The Beaches of Agnes. 

Lina Wertmuller - Years active 1965-2009. This Italian director was the first woman ever nominated for Best Director, when the Academy nominated her in 1975 for her film Seven Beauties. One of her films also holds the record for longest title (it was shortened to Blood Feud). A highly vocal political activist, many of her characters reflect her more extreme stances. Best known films: Seven Beauties, The Seduction of Mimi, Swept Away.

Who do you vote for? (You may vote for more than one.)

 

 

Coming in March: IDA LUPINO

The noir-actress-turned-writer/producer originally became a director out of necessity, but quickly made a name for herself by writing the kinds of films that the big studios wouldn't touch. Using her buddy Howard Hughes's money and support, Lupino started a production company, and a directing career that lasted two decades. Follow along as we watch a blonde bombshell turn herself into a behind-the-scenes bigshot.

March Schedule:

3/5 - Never Fear (1949) - Ida's first directing credit about a dancer who contracts polio. (Available on Amazon Prime)

3/12 - The Hitch-Hiker (1953) - A foray into film noir with a hitch-hiker holding two men hostage. (Available on Amazon Prime)

3/19 - The Bigamist (1953) - Ida Lupino and Joan Fontaine are married to the same man. (Available on Amazon Prime)

3/26 - The Trouble With Angels (1966) - Lupino's last feature film involves Rosalind Russell, Hayley Mills, and nuns. (Available on Amazon Prime)