Les Plages d’Agnes

Director: Agnes Varda

On the eve of her 80th birthday, Agnès Varda, often referred to as “the godmother of the French New Wave,” decided to make the autobiographical The Beaches of Agnes, guiding us through her extraordinary 55-year career and poignantly reminiscing about her husband, the filmmaker Jacques Demy (best known for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), who died of AIDS in 1990—information that Varda makes public here for the first time. Raising two children—costume designer Rosalie Varda and actor Mathieu Demy—and making some of France’s greatest movies from the 1960s, Varda and Demy traveled the world but appeared to have been most at home in the septième art. Or, as Varda puts it: “Cinema—I feel like I’ve always lived in it.” As Varda explains how a relatively shy, awkward young woman from Brussels first taught herself how to be a photographer and then a filmmaker, we marvel at her drive, determination, and endless curiosity about the world. Richly illustrating her documentary with clips from her (and Demy’s) films, Varda remains a constant, lively presence (much as she did in her documentary, The Gleaners and I), remarking of her on-screen persona, “I’m playing the role of a little old lady, plump and talkative.”

Best Documentary, César Awards (2009); Best Documentary, Etoile d’Or, Prix de la Presse Française du Cinéma (2009)