by Shelby Gray
Coffee + cinema with a left bank legend
CALGARY – A pioneer of French New Wave cinema, Agnès Varda has had a prolific career. Emerging from the left banks of Paris in the 1950’s, Varda and her contemporaries (Jean Luc Goddard, François Truffaut, Alain Renais etc.) were interested in deviating from the norm of the cinema conventions of the time, sculpting a style that would be imitated and revered by every young director to follow. Varda crafts somewhat banal vignettes of everyday life that prompt the viewer to piece together a bigger narrative, and to ask ourselves questions about our own mortality, happiness, love and freedom.
This month at Coffee + Cinema movie night at the Roasterie in Kensington, EspressoKino is highlighting the french auteur with five of her best-known works: La Point Courte (1955), Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), Happiness (1966), One Sings the Other Doesn’t (1977) and Vagabond (1985). Varda’s first feature film, La Pointe Courte, was released in 1955 at only 25 years old. Set in a small seaside fishing town, La Pointe Courte depicts the struggle of the town to maintain their fishing export despite a bacterium in the water surrounding the town, and a young couple who is struggling to maintain happiness within their relationship. It is the relationship between the young couple that proves to be the most captivating aspect of the film, especially Varda’s blocking techniques between Lui (Philippe Noiret) and Elle (Silvia Monfort). These existential conversations about happiness, love and mortality are a common theme to Agnès Vardas filmography and one that continues in her following, and arguably most famous, film Cléo from 5 to 7.
Cléo from 5 to 7 begins as a melodramatic depiction of a seemingly vain, superficial singer Cléo (Corinne Marchand) who is dreading medical test results. The film takes the viewer through two hours of the singer’s life, and the different people she encounters while she contemplates her mortality. Initially melodramatic the film ends up being a sincere account of Cléo’s hypochondria and genuine human themes that everyone faces.
Happiness (1965), a film released towards the end of the New Wave movement, is the third screening of the series and is aptly named. The film starring Jean-Claude Drouot, Marie-France Boyer, illustrates Francois’s (Jean-Claude Drouout) happy family life and how another love interest can affect it.
Taking a notably more political direction, One Sings the Other Doesn’t (1977) is set against the backdrop of the 1970’s Women’s Movement. This film depicts two friends Pomme (Valérie Mairesse) and Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard) and the progression of their friendship while dealing with dramatic ups and downs in their separate lives.
For their last Agnès Varda feature, Espresso Kino will be showing her 1985 film Vagabond. Initially playing like a road trip film Vagabond portrays Mona (Sandrine Bonnaire) a young hitchhiker who is found dead in a ditch. Varda gives the viewer an account of the young women’s life and the decisions that lead her to her untimely death. Using interviews and flashbacks of the people that Mona interacts with the we are forced to use the judgements of others in order to inform our opinions of her. Vagabond gives the viewer a rare look at a woman so independent as to hitchhike alone, a “freedom” that most women aren’t allowed.
The films of Agnès Varda are both relatable and magical, it is the beauty of everyday life that interests Varda and has given her so much success over her impressively long career. EspressoKino’s month long journey of her cinema has something for everyone and are presented in the way they’re meant to be seen: communally, and with coffee.
EspressoKino occurs every Thursday at 9pm at The Roasterie. For screening dates, visit www.espressokino.caAgnès Varda, cinema, Cléo from 5 to 7, Espressokino, happiness, La Pointe Courte, One Sings the Other Doesn’t, Roasterie, Vagabond