Monday, October 12, 2009
I like The Beaches of Agnès (Agnes Varda) for its modest qualities, and for its intoxicating approach to cinema, memory, life, and love as something like a puzzle. The film, a cinematic self portrait of director Agnès Varda, is ultimately impossible to firmly categorize. It's at least a start to say it flits between documentary/remembrance and fiction/invention with ease, and Varda carries with her reminiscences a gentle wisp of modernism that's refreshing in a film culture oversaturated with ironic pastiche. The film sneaks up on you with its profundities: it's like having a casual conversation with an old friend, or perhaps, given Varda's age, an especially thoughtful grandmother; then, at some point in the conversation, suddenly hitting on two or three things that seem to explain some very important part of the trajectories and textures of your entire life. The film combines footage and photographs from Varda's past along with scenes from her earlier movies (and those of her husband, Jacques Demy, whose relationship with Varda gives the second half of the film a loose structure, although not an exactly linear one, given that his death hangs over much of the film), and also contains present-day footage of the aging auteur. This is probably as good a film as Varda has ever made, and certainly the most moving autobiography of a film director I'm ever likely to see. I know it's the best movie I've seen so far in '09.