“Every Person Is a Jigsaw Puzzle”: 5 Questions With Agnès Varda, Queen of the French New Wave

Indispensable French director, installation artist, and photographer Agnès Varda does not make general comments on her films or their subjects, because her chimerical work is ever-shifting. Varda’s films are experimental, though you can see some of the artist’s shared interests amongst the works highlighted in the Film Society at Lincoln Center‘s documentary-focused Art of the Real sidebar retrospective, The Actualities of Agnès Varda.

Since 1955’s La Pointe Courte, her debut feature and the film that many argue kick-started the French New Wave, Varda’s style changed as her interests did. She documented her trip to Cuba in 1963 and filmed Black Panther protests in 1968 Oakland. The itinerant Varda’s formal tinkering matched her fascination with American counterculture in both fiction and documentary films like 1969’s Lions Love (… and Lies) and 1981’s Mur murs. Between these two works, Varda returned to Paris in the ’70s, where she made fanciful docu-hybrids like Daguerréotypes, a portrait of Varda’s neighbors on Paris’ rue Daguerre — also home of her production company Ciné-Tamaris.

Varda’s tireless curiosity and impish playfulness may have been a product of her earlier work in Paris, but her fluid style continues to change. Doc-fiction films like 1987’s Kung-fu master! and Jane B. par Agnès V. (1988) — both of which will be re-released soon by Cinelicious Pics — are just as modern and impossible to classify as they ever were.

Flavorwire had the privilege of emailing five questions to the oracular Varda, who talked about everything from life in Los Angeles to her favorite nickname. The Actualities of Agnès Varda screens April 17-24. Visit SundanceNow Doc Club to explore Agnès Varda and Personal Cinema, a digital program that includes the miniseries From Here to There — a chronicle of Varda’s travels around the world and the global contemporary art scene.


Flavorwire: You once said: “I’ve always been like this — trying to find adventure where it’s still in its first élan — the first spring.” What do you, as a storyteller involved in your own adventures, see as the next big adventure that’s currently being explored by other filmmakers (or perhaps hasn’t yet been discovered by others)?

Agnès Varda: For some film directors every new film is an adventure. Not many of them see a new film as a new experiment or a new approach to the language of cinema, which is what I am interested in.