The Beaches of Agnes Agnes Varda

The Beaches of Agnes Agnes Varda
If there is one thing to gripe about with Agnes Varda's self-examination documentary, The Beaches of Agnes, it is it assumes too much knowledge of the political and experimental filmmaker, and her Rive Gauche counterparts and occasional collaborators. We're given clips of various referenced works and brief outlines of who is who, but the sheer breadth of Varda's life experiences, relevant connections and contextual revelations juxtaposed with her art installations and medium manipulation will likely overwhelm anyone outside of the world of film academia. For those in the know, this self-portrait is fascinating and humorous, with an undercurrent of mourning for the many artists around her, including late husband Jacques Demy, that are no longer with us. She expands on the experience of being a female filmmaker surrounded by men while detailing her success with Cleo From 5 to 7, with Chris Marker's contentious alter ego, Guillaume, an animated cat, antagonizing for necessary self-deprecation and overall perspective. These frank and playful descriptions, along with the many installations (a sand-filled city street, a mirror maze on a beach) keep what could easily become a masturbatory exercise balanced and surprising. More touching are the anecdotes shared about the making of Jacquot de Nantes and her cherished husband, as the pain of loss as life signifier takes affecting shape. This is a dominant theme, as throughout there is a sense of current identity as a construct of haunted experiences passed and ephemeral memories, with the retelling of history bringing closure and form to the present. From this we get a sense of Agnes Varda as more than a timeline of events, bringing forth the motivations and passions of each moment with every experience compounding and shaping something that in turn sparks self-analysis in the audience. Unfortunately, no special features are included with the DVD, but this may very well be the only G-rated film to feature full-frontal nudity and erections. (Seville)