Photo, Audio: In Memoriam, Agnés Varda of French New Wave Cinema

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CHICAGO – If the French New Wave cinema movement (1958 to late 1960s) had a mother, it was undoubtably Agnés Varda. The versatile filmmaker began her film journey shortly before the movement began, and her influence resonated throughout that era and within her career. Varda died at the age of 90 on March 29th, 2019.

French Filmmaker Agnés Varda in Chicago, October of 2015
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Arlette “Agnés” Varda was born in Brussels, Belgium, and through her French mother applied to the Sorbonne (University of Paris) shortly after World War II, gaining a degree in literature and psychology. Continuing her education in art history, she turned to photography before becoming a voice in Left Bank Cinema and the French New Wave. Her debut film was 1954’s “La Pointe Courte,” which she built from still images of her photographs.

Her career built from there, as her follow feature “Cléo from 5 to 7” (1961) is considered a classic. She worked virtually up to the end, with career highlights including “Lions Love … and Lies (1969), “One Sings, the Other Doesn’t” (1977), “Vagabond” (1985), “Jacquot de Nantes” (1991), “The Gleaners and I” (2000), “Faces Places” (2017) and as a co-director on “Visages Villages” (2018), which was nominated for Best Documentary Feature, making Varda – at age 89 – the oldest person to be nominated for a competitive Oscar. She received an honorary Oscar in 2017.

Agnés Varda was married to Jacques Demy, a French director, until his death in 1990, and is survived by two children. She died in Paris of complications from cancer, and was buried in the famed Montparnasse Cemetary there.

In 2015, Patrick McDonald of talked to Agnés Varda on the Red Carpet at the 51st Chicago International Film Festival, with Photographer Joe Arce capturing her image. Published for the first time on audio, her perfect answer on where cinema resides – “This is a feast, a feast of cinema. Nothing serious. I would like to go back [referring to the backdrop standee] and meet again, the ‘eyes of Theda Bara’ [after I say “YES!”] It made me cum!” Theda Bara, by the way, is the model for the eyes in the Festival logo.

The source for this article was Agnés Varda, Mother of the French New Wave, 1928-2019 senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Writer

© 2019 Patrick McDonald,

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