Sunday, July 26, 2009

Beached

I was suspicious about the rave reviews of Varda's new auto-bio-pic. I've never been a big fan of Varda. I found the film Daguerréotypes (also known I think as Rue Daguerre) excruciating. The Gleaners, which so many swooned over, just made me angry. An insult to Millet.

Years ago I did see and rather liked Lions' Love, but only because Shirley Clarke and Viva were in it-- in all their glory.

Her new film, The Beaches of Agnes, is just as cloying as Daguerreotypes and even more (if that is possible) narcissistic. Lots of familiar folk here and lovely images of Guillaume (Chris Marker's signature cat)-- as a larger than life cut out walking down the street. Perhaps the best image in the entire film. But there is no real appreciation of Marker or of any of the people she mentions. Beaches is replete with name dropping, like a society column.

The problem is there is really no sense of history. In any of her films. History for Varda is like an antique shop-- there only for consumption. In Beaches, she breezes past WWII, Vietnam, the Black Panthers, as if they were tableaux in shop windows--and all she is interested in is her own reflected image.

She uses art the same way. She culls contemporary art and takes the visuals for her "background" and leaves the concept behind. The film opens with a scene on the beach with a group of interns each holding or placing mirrors. Joan Jonas did stark and scary work in the 1970s carrying mirrors around--showing the audience to themselves or looking at various parts of her own body. Her performances made the mirror an instrument of terror. In Varda the mirror is just part of the decor.

Varda takes her office to the street which has been covered with sand (beach). Beuys did performances in the streets of many European cities--performances that challenged the prevailing mores. Varda's office street beach is reassuring. There is a smugness about putting your office outside. It doesn't challenge anything. It borders on cute, sort of like a child's lemonade stand.
For an interview with Varda check out Liza Bear's piece in Interview:
http://www.filmforum.org/films/beachesofagnes/Agnesvarda2.pdf

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5 Comments:

Anonymous liza bear said...

I'd rather people clicked on the online version

http://www.interviewmagazine.com/film/agns-varda

the print version left out key passages

thanks
Liza

12:33 PM  
Blogger charles rotmil said...

this is a strange reaction to a film everyone I know raves about, especially women. I had one friend tell me "this is the movie I want to see when I die." I usually find Varda hard to watch. I just went througha batch of shorts (Avant Garde vol II) from the 70's, speaking of indulgence. Makes me wonder how people endured that stuff, with now and then a gem, one by Alexander Calder. Well, I guess I will have to see this Varda film now.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's a long time i'm not going to see varda's film
glad to hear you confirm dd, that it isn't time to spend..
nat

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason reminded that the sand on the street is a reference to May '68, "Beneath the Paving Stones, the BEACH." I haven't seen the film but it makes the gesture less cute and more specific, in that context. Though again, I haven't seen it...
--Rach

1:26 PM  
Blogger Deep Dish said...

yes, she uses political rhetoric the same way she uses conceptual art and history. So she put a beach over the cobblestones. so what does that mean? I doubt if she knows.

10:56 PM  

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