Agnès Varda • Director
"I've been lucky, because my films have been appreciated despite not being commercial successes"
- The director analyses her career in light of the Leopard of Honour awarded to her by the Locarno Festival
Agnès Varda continues to show an enviable clarity of mind at 86 years of age. During her visit to the Locarno Fim Festival, where in its 67th edition she takes home the Leopard of Honour as a tribute to her entire career, she looks back on six decades behind the camera. In this conversation the Belgian-born Parisian director dispels the myth of nouvelle vague and explaines why she prefers documentaries rather than fictions when it comes to developing her filmmaking discourse.
Cineuropa: It has been suggested on many occasions that your first film, La Pointe Courte (1954) is the origin of nouvelle vague. Do you consider yourself the founder of a whole means of filmmaking?
Agnès Varda: The truth is that each and every one of the directors described as nouvelle vague were all doing our own thing. Claude Chabrol and Jaques Demy are very different. What do those two have in common with Jean-Luc Godard? They can’t be placed in the same category because they weren’t doing the same thing. There was never a meeting in which we all got together in the same room and decided what the guidelines of a stream of filmmaking would be...
What are you especially proud of in your career?
Of sticking to it. Almost all of my movies were commercial failures. Only Vagabond, a film that was really difficult for me, succeeded in making money. But I’ve been lucky, because my films have been understood and appreciated by a particular audience and by film festivals. My goal has always been to be sincere to my own creative project and I’ve not let myself be tempted by the siren calls of fame and fortune.
The documentary genre has always been a constant in your career, to the point of abandoning fiction stories in your most recent films.
I applied a documentary structure even to my fiction films. To me it seemed the most suitable way of giving the story authenticity. Morevoer I realised that I prefered working with real people rather than with actors. I admire actors, but I’m shy and I’ve always been self-conscious when faced with a good actor.
As well as filmmaker, you were also a photographer before that and a visual artist for some years now. Are the audiences for cinema and art very different?
Completely. To begin with, a work of art is exhibited in a museum, among so many others, and the observer doesn’t have to stop and look at it. Once that happens you succeed in connecting with another type of sensitivity and the relationship between the creator and the spectator is more on the same level. When you show a movie you’re expressing your intentions before many people. On the other hand, art in a museum doesn’t stand the test of time and yet the movie that I made sixty years ago continues to influence people. That’s the magic of cinema.
(Translated from Spanish)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.