Director, photographer, artist: Agnès Varda is truly multitalented. TV5MONDE invites you to discover this exceptional character of New Wave of French cinema. She has won many awards for her work and continues to leave her mark in the world of cinema today
© Ciné Tamaris
Born on 30th May 1928 in Ixelles, to a French mother and Greek father, Agnès Varda left Belgium in 1940 with her family and settled in the south of France in Sète, where she spent her adolescence. Her passion for the arts leads her to Paris, where she studies photography at the École des Beaux-Arts and art history at the École du Louvre. Jean Vilar, director at the popular National Theater offers her a job as a photographer. In the mid-1950s, Agnès and the directors Chris Marker and Alain Resnais founded a group of film-makers which became the core of New Wave cinema. They called themselves Groupe Rive Gauche in order to differentiate themselves from the group of critics from the Les cahiers du cinéma Magazine.
She developed the desire to transform her photographic ideas and inspiration into films and founded the production company Tamaris Films in 1954. With the help of Alain Resnais, she films her first feature film, La Pointe-Courte, in Sète on a rather low budget, Philippe Noiret and Silvia Monfort have the main roles. The film is critically acclaimed.
Meeting Jacques Demy
From her short liaison with the actor and director Antoine Bourseiller, Rosalie Varda, future film costume designer, was born in 1958. In the same year, Agnès meets her future husband, director Jacques Demy who later adopts Rosalie. From their union Mathieu Demy was born in 1972: he inherited his parents' passion and went on to become a director, actor and film-maker.
© Gamma Rapho
In the 1960s, Agnès Varda's career took off. In 1961, she directed several films in rapid succession, including Cléo de 5 à 7, Les Creatures and Le Bonheur, and became one of the first representatives of young French cinema.
Between 1968 and 1970, she stayed in the United States, in Los Angeles, where she directed a hippie-Hollywood film, Lions Love, along with several documentaries. She was to meet Jim Morrison, The Doors lead singer there. Back in France, she directed an optimistic, feminist film: L'une chante, l'autre pas. Committed to her cause, she signed the 343 manifest in France in 1971, which called for the right to abortion.
In 1983, she was on the judging panel for feature films at the 40th Venice Festival. In 1985, she was awarded the Golden Lion at the 1985 Venice Film Festival for Sans toit ni loi with Sandrine Bonnaire as the main actress. After the death of her husband Jacques Demy in 1990, she paid tribute to him with three films: Jacquot de Nantes, Les demoiselles ont eu 25 ans et L’Univers de Jacques Demy.
In 2000, Les Glaneurs et La Glaneuse marked an important moment in her career: using a digital camera meant she worked alone to create this documentary that excited both critics and the public.
In 2005, she was on the judging panel at the Cannes Festival and Quebec Film Conservatory paid tribute to her with a retrospective film and photography exhibition.
© Ciné Tamaris
In Les Plages d'Agnès, released in 2008, Agnès Varda looks back on her life, including her four grandchildren Valentin, Augustin, Corentin (Rosalie's children) and Constantin (Mathieu's son) and her work. This autobiographical film received the César Award for Best Documentary Film.
In 2009, she won a Henri-Langlois Award of Honor for her career. In the same year, she became Commander of the Legion of Honor.
During the Cannes Festival in 2013, she was president of the Caméra d'Or. A year later, she received the Leopard of Honor at the 67th Locarno International Film Festival. In 2015, she was awarded the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, which she described in her speech as her “resistance and endurance” award. In 2017, she received the documentary award L'Oeil d'Or for her documentary Visages, Villages and even an Oscar to Honor her career. Agnès Varda devoted her life to cinema, and it loved her for it: at 90, she was awarded the Berlinale 2019 Berlinale-Kamera Prize for her latest documentary Varda by Agnès.
She died on Friday, March 29th, 2019, from cancer at the age of 90.
In April, TV5MONDE is showing a series of tributes to this exceptional director, find out more here!