Posts Tagged ‘Agnès Varda’

varda_art3In earlier posts, a variety of exemplary female filmmakers have been discussed, from early pioneer Alice Guy Blaché to cinematographer Ellen Kuras to screenwriter Pamela Gray to casting director Marion Dougherty and many more.  This year has seen more inspiring landmarks and creations in the exceptional life and career of Agnès Varda, one of the featured directors of Chapters 5 and 6 of Moving Images (and who showed notable generosity towards our project).  From the Moving Images text, “director Agnès Varda has maintained a long career in which she has led her own production company and has made films that have established her highly personal integration of community life and a spontaneous method and style in her movies.  Varda has created some of the most innovative and free-spirited short and feature films of her time shooting with an impressively wide range of approaches: feature productions in 35mm; documentaries in 16mm or other platforms; commercials and public service announcements; journal type projects in videotape and digital video, among others.”

3boutonsAt the Cannes Festival this past May, Varda received a lifetime achievement award — only the fourth given in the history of the festival — and more recently, she premiered a lively short film starring teenager Jasmine Thiré — Les 3 Boutons — that provides a neat introduction to her original approaches to moviemaking and storytelling.  From casting to locations to editing to narrative digressions, it is pure Varda and a treat. She is a master of cinematic language through both image and sound.  The Criterion Collection has also released a new box set of some of her less known work, and it includes such important and innovative shorts as Uncle Yanco and Black Panthers.  

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att_icw_lgt_rgb_grd_posThrough It Can Wait and other initiatives, AT&T has dedicated a great deal of effort in public awareness campaigns about the dangers of texting and driving.  Recently, they released From One Second to the Nexta half-hour documentary by Werner Herzog that will be used as a public service announcement throughout schools in the United States.  “What AT&T proposed immediately clicked and connected inside of me,” Herzog has said. “There’s a completely new culture out there. I’m not a participant of texting and driving—or texting at all—but I see there’s something going on in civilization which is coming with great vehemence at us.”

itcanwait-documentaryWerner Herzog has created some of the most challenging and engrossing movies of the past half-century and his career is one of the strongest examples of a director whose work crosses many boundaries between fiction and documentary and across genres, like other directors featured in Chapters 5 and 6 of Moving Images, such as Agnès Varda, Michael Apted, and Bertrand Tavernier.   Among Herzog’s most celebrated non-fiction films are Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Grizzly Manand Little Dieter Needs to Fly, while his fiction features include Aguirre, The Wrath of God and Nosferatu, The Vampyre.  In addition, his production of Fitzcarraldo is the subject of the highly acclaimed documentary Burden of Dreams by filmmaker Les Blank and is available on a deluxe Criterion edition.

From One Second to the Next is a powerful public service announcement and a striking piece of filmmaking, and it can provide good examples of cross-curricular work in the classroom, particularly as students work on issues related to safety and decision making, constant technology use, and communications.  It can also serve as a strong reference point as students work on their own documentaries or PSAs; here is a page that gives information on the type of team needed to put together a project like this.  And here is an excellent NPR Morning Edition interview with Herzog about this project.

For schools, there is a shorter 12-minute version of the PSA available.  (The full length version is 35 minutes.)

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A still from Alice Guy Blaché’s groundbreaking short “Madame Has Her Cravings”

In the late 1980’s, I studied at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris while completing research on French director Marcel Carné for my senior thesis at Princeton University.  There, in a course taught by French film scholar Michel Marie, I was particularly interested by a story that I had never heard of in any of the film histories I had read until then: the cinematic legacy and amazing life of director Alice Guy Blaché.  Since then, major biographies (most significantly, Alison McMahan‘s Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema) and articles have been published on this inspiring pioneer, and evidence of her work has been unearthed in film archives and dusty attics from around the world, allowing for more thorough investigation of her achievements.  At the last Directors Guild of America Awards ceremony in New York City, the DGA offered a posthumous award to Alice Guy Blaché presented by Martin Scorsese.  Currently, her feature The Ocean Waif is available on DVD in partial form along with another feature directed by a woman, Ruth Ann Baldwin‘s 49-17.  For Guy Blaché’s short films, there is a Gaumont Treasures DVD set that features a number of her French movies from 1897-1907.  Online, many of her shorts are available streaming such as Falling Leaves, a 1912 movie produced by her own Solax Studios in New Jersey.

Director and actress Julie Delpy’s followup to 2 Days in Paris

Study of Alice Guy Blaché in the classroom can involve many interesting topics for students.  These include the development of visual storytelling (see Chapter 7 of Moving Images for the “alcoholic mattress” example from the work of Guy Blaché), the prominence of independent studios in film history such as Guy Blaché’s Solax Studios in New Jersey, and the changing roles of women in movie production, particularly the entrenchment of a “males only” world of film production in Hollywood studios after the first decades of the cinema.  Today, France has many active female directors, including Julie Delpy, Agnès Jaoui, Claire Denis, Noémie Lvovsky, Tonie Marshall, Danièle Thompson, and pioneer Agnès Varda who is among the featured directors of Chapter 5 of Moving Images.  

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