7 posts categorized "French New Wave"

February 04, 2021


Screen Shot 2021-02-04 at 1.07.47 AMEquality. Recognition. Artistic and personal truth. I’ve watched all of Agnès Varda films while discovering Criterion’s lush celebration of the French New Wave’s progenitor. If you could only have one filmmaker’s oeuvre on your private desert island, Agnès Varda’s films are the right choice to last you the rest of your life.

In Varda-approved random fashion I begin my slight review of Varda’s supremely personal, transgressive, and satisfying films with Daguerréotypes, a documentary film that fully expresses Agnès Varda’s confidence and openness to the world around her. In this case that meant the 90 meter distance of cable that her camera could reach from her floor-level apartment to the shops and locations in the Rue Daguerre district of Paris. Varda was raising her two-year-old son at the time, so she needed to stay close to home. Varda's catlike curiosity pours through every second of this truly delightful movie.


The magician who appears at the film’s opening credits returns during a public performance in front of an audience of (Parisian) neighborhood regulars. Everything from the magician’s formal approach to his audience and their delightful reactions to his Grand Guignol-inspired tricks, Varda captures a dynamic personal immediacy to time and place. Think Les Blank. There's boldness in Varda's subtle simplicity. Agnès Varda retained this transparency throughout her spectacular career as a filmmaker of the first water.     


The film's title comes from Rue Daguerre, the street that Varda lived on. The street was named after Louis Daguerre, "inventor of the Daguerreotypes of photographic printing."


Naturally this movie is a time capsule of French life, by virtue of Agnès Varda's generous and willing ability to reach out to her neighbors in a cinematic way. There is much to enjoy, relish, and learn from the elderly subjects in this treasured movie. Taken with the joy that Varda captures and inspires, "Daguerréotypes" is a social study for all time. What love. What magic. What a celebration of life.


Five Stars

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February 15, 2018


Vivre Sa VieIn 1962 French New Wave provocateur Jean-Luc Godard shifted stylistic filmic gears as lucidly as Miles Davis revolutionized music. Artistic experimentation was in the air. For his fourth feature Godard took Marcel Sacotte’s book about prostitution in Paris as inspiration to create a fascinating cinema vérité styled character and social study. Godard’s groundbreaking camera techniques add intimacy, suspense, and mystery to his documentary approach to sensitive subject matter. The dramatic effect is memorable as it is meaningful. Every aspect of the movie is effortlessly iconic, not the least of which is the stylish personality profile that Anna Karina fulfills. 

Anna Karina

Never before had the backs of heads and shoulders been exploited to such a delightfully dramatic extreme. Hair styles express nuances heretofore unknown. Broken into 12 chapters, “Vivre Sa Vie” takes a non-judgmental view of a character who is nonetheless doomed.

Godard’s wife at the time Anna Karina is transfixing Nana, a lovely young French actress driven to take up prostitution after meeting a pimp. Forth-wall-breaking moments allow the audience to connect with Anna Karina’s guileless yet fragile beauty in support of her aspirational character. The emotion and intellectual nature that Karina transmits is every bit as affecting as Renee Falconetti in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s brilliant silent film “The Passion of Joan of Arc” from 1928. Indeed, Godard references Dreyer’s masterpiece in “Vivre Sa Vie” when Nana goes to a screening at a Parisian cinema.

Anna Karina

“My Life to Live” has just as much social currency today as the day it was released even if its gangster trope ending lets Godard off the hook all too easy. Here is a unique film that takes daring chances while rooting itself in neorealist filmic soil. You can feel its grounded sense of immediacy and truth.  

Anna Karina

Not rated. 85 mins. (A) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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Groupthink doesn't live here.

Jean-Luc Godard's fourth film features Godard's wife-at-the-time Anna Karina as an actress-turned-prostitute in this ground breaking example of the French New Wave. Stone Delicious IPA seemed like the perfect beer to go along with this equally attractive film. 

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Groupthink doesn't live here.

November 24, 2017


VAGABONDAgnes Varda’s sturdy neo-realistic social study of a fiercely individualistic young woman, who happily lives a hobo’s life on the road in France, is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Here is Varda inventing Cinema before our eyes. The gifted filmmaker of the French New Wave plays with style and form via a reverse bookend narrative about Mona (featuring a guileless early performance from Sandrine Bonnaire), a loner leading a makeshift lifestyle based on the people she comes across.


This touching film can rightfully be considered a feminist think-piece of the first water. Documentary techniques add to “Vagabond’s” humanist appeal as a timeless artifact of French womanhood in the ‘80s, and the social conditions of the time. Some men who Mona meets are more dangerous than others, but she soldiers through predictably unpredictable situations with the full force of her corporeal nature and abilities.

Vagabond (1)

“Vagabond” achieves and effortless sense of social currency and filmic transparency. Everything rings true.

Not rated. 105 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


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