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“Varda By Agnès” concludes a great filmmaker’s tireless journey

Friday, February 7, 4070 Vilas Hall, 7 p.m., free. Info

It feels almost cruel that Agnès Varda was designated the “grandmother of the French new wave” during her lifetime. The title implies that her work roots the genre, of course, but also that she at some point aged out of actively engaging in artistry and into simply nurturing the movement, long retired from her position as a pioneer filmmaker. As lovingly as this title was given, it seems to bury the woman it was meant to honor, to paper over the fact that for her whole career and right up until her death at age 90 in March 2019, Varda had, in her own words, to “fight like a tiger” to bring her films into the world.

To be fair, it’s challenging, maybe even impossible, to properly celebrate the nuances of such a prolific and beloved artist’s vision and legacy with just a handful of words. Luckily, in Varda’s case, we have Varda By Agnès, the filmmaker’s final work, released just months after her passing. It’s as much a tribute to Varda herself as it is a map that overlays her body of work with her practice of cinécriture (cinematic writing) to reveal, through Varda’s own words, the playful and insightful eye and the tender precision that can be traced through her films.

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Following Varda from lectures on her filmmaking process delivered at opera halls to the landscapes and environments that swaddle her films, Varda By Agnès is a delight to anyone who has loved her films and longs to revisit them. But her warmth, humor, and enthusiasm for film welcome first-time viewers of her work to Varda’s world just as easily and joyfully.

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