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Wave Goodbye: “The Beaches of Agnès”

Wave Goodbye: "The Beaches of Agnès"

Is the 81-year-old Agnes Varda a tireless self-promoter or self-eulogizer? After watching her lyrical, free-associative autobiography “The Beaches of Agnes” it might seem silly to even bother creating a distinction. In the past decade or so, this oft-named “grandmother of the French New Wave,” who has been for over fifty years creating a diverse, challenging (and admittedly inconsistent) body of work, from narrative cinema to documentary to photography and installation pieces, has more often than not turned the camera on herself. Thus the septuagenarian incarnation of Varda, in such personal works as The Gleaners and I (2000) and Cinevardaphoto (2004), was all about foregrounding her voice and vision — if you had been wondering what to look at in her previous decades’ films, here was the key (life’s marginalia, France’s outskirts, aging, the process and texture of seeing and bearing witness).

Now, as an octogenarian, she’s taken her project of introspection even further, making a feature-length video about her own life, her own art, her outlook on the world as she’s grown older, her relationships, childhood, memories. It’s the kind of film a less charitable critic might call indulgent; yet why shouldn’t a filmmaker write her own life story on the screen rather than the page? As with any autobiography, the author’s passions and blind spots are all there for us to see, and despite the expected amount of immodesty coursing through it, The Beaches of Agnès is a mostly enchanting troll down memory lane. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of The Beaches of Agnès.

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