“The pressures here in Hollywood are so great, from all the dead people,” opines Warhol superstar Viva in Varda’s experimental feature, shot in Los Angeles in 1968. External pressures on our heroine would at first seem to be few. Drifting naked in the pool attended by swains Jim Rado and Jerry Ragni (the writer-singers of Hair), she has little more to do than recite pop reż. But the atmosphere of hippie bliss is disrupted when the trio’s houseguest, filmmaker Shirley Clarke, attempts suicide (directed to “swallow” a handful of pills, the sensible Clarke complains while the cameras roll, “this whole thing, it’s not my style!”); Bobby Kennedy gets killed on TV; and news of the shooting of Andy Warhol arrives by telephone. What’s a superstar to do? Bracketed by performances of Michael McClure’s The Beard, with cameos by Eddie Constantine and Peter Bogdanovich, among others, Lions Love is a deliberately decadent riff on fantasy, immaturity, and violence: American culture, 1968. —Pacific Film Archive
Agnès Varda has been called the “Grandmother of the New Wave,” a well-meaning if curious tribute for a woman who directed her first feature film at the age of 26. Born in Brussels, Varda studied literature and psychology at the Sorbonne, and art history at the École du Louvre. She’d originally wanted to be a museum curator, but a night-school course in photography changed her mind. Rapidly establishing herself as a top-rank still photographer, Varda became the official cameraperson for the Theatre Festival of Avignon and the Theatre National Populaire, and then pursued a career as a photojournalist.
Encouraged by filmmaker Alain Resnais, Varda made her movie directorial bow in 1955 with La Pointe Courte. She based the film on a William Faulkner short story, to which she was attracted because of its parallel plotlines (a recurring device in her later films). That same year, she accompanied another future New Wave director, Chris Marker, to China as visual advisor for his Dimanche… read more
"An oddly affecting anarchic view of aspects of a new American sensibility...A collage of aspiring actors awaiting their opportunity in Hollywood, it stars Viva and the two creators of 'Hair' in a casual ménage à trois - in which sex and nudity are neither 'issues' nor proselytizing slogans." Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art
1968. The year television finally conquered political life. In Lions Love (a film I have been desperate to see for years) Varda succeeds in engaging the American counterculture in its own tongue in a way that is totally honest and profound. Even the irritating, indulgent, and decadent bits are profound. It's the film that Godard's One Plus One wished it had been. It's subject is ultimately the élan vital of history, art, and mediated self-invention.
To celebrate the Le cinema d’Agnès Varda, the virtual retrospective currently running on The Auteurs, I thought I'd take a look at Varda’s