Women in Film: Criterion Channel Introduces Viewers to the Works of Agnès Varda

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Agnès Varda, one of the essential voices of French New Wave Cinema, is memorialized in the Criterion Channel’s first month. Many of the director’s works are available on the new streaming service, ready for a new generation of fans to discover and enjoy.

Varda passed away last month at age 90. She left behind a legacy that celebrates art, feminism, and hard work. With a career that spanned decades, Varda touched the lives of many around the world.

To commemorate her life and work, the newly launched Criterion Channel gifts viewers with a collection of many of her films. The collection includes narratives and documentaries, shorts and features. This treasure trove includes conversations with the director that dates back to 1964.

Some of Varda’s best works are included here. Her first film, “La Pointe Courte” from 1956 is a beautiful and heartwrenching portrait of a struggling marriage. Also available, the 1985 film, “Vagabond,” which is a non-linear examination of the tragic death of a young woman.

For those who are new to Agnès Varda, the best introduction lies with “Cléo from 5 to 7” from 1962. Florence “Cléo” (Corinne Marchand) Victoire is a Parisienne singer. She spends her final two agonizing hours waiting for results from a medical exam she had two days ago. Cléo is certain she is about to be diagnosed with terminal cancer. The film opens on a visit to a fortune teller who suggests that all but confirms her fears. During the next two hours, Cléo passes the minutes in segments. Unfolding in nearly real time, Cléo visits a cafe, attends a rehearsal, speaks with friends and observes strangers.

The beauty of “Cléo from 5 to 7” is that it is much more about the journey through those hours than it is about the results. Marchand deftly navigates swirling emotions, sometimes resilient and others times wistful or anxious. She is a captivating presence. And as we learn more about the woman that she is, her story takes some surprising turns.

There are many reasons “Cléo from 5 to 7” resonates today. Beautiful costumes, perfect cinematography, and brilliant editing all add layers to Marchand’s performance. Marchand herself is brilliant, and so are her co-stars. But what ties everything together is Varda’s vision. She was gifted at visual presentation and demonstrates her skill in the way she ties the pieces together. She wrote and directed the story, ever keeping a tight focus on Cléo. Everyone she encounters is merely passing through her tale. This is entirely about Cléo, and particularly the two hours we spend with her. Varda knew exactly how to pull the audience in, and the film she crafted is captivating. It is certainly of its era, but in so many ways it is also timeless.

Here is the current list of titles from Agnès Varda, now streaming on The Criterion Channel:

  • “La Pointe Courte” (1956)
  • “Du côté de la côte” (1958)
  • “L’opéra Mouffe” (1958)
  • “Les fiancés du pont Macdonald” (1961)
  • “Cléo from 5 to 7” (1962)
  • “Le bonheur” (1965)
  • “Uncle Yanco” (1967)
  • “Black Panthers” (1968)
  • “Lions (…and Lies)” (1969)
  • “Mur Murs” (1980)
  • “Documenteur” (1981)
  • “Vagabond” (1985)
  • “The Young Girls Turn 25” (1993)
  • “The World of Jacques Demy” (1995)

Do you have a favorite film from Agnès Varda? Comment below and share!

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