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Born: Brussels, Belgium, 30 May 1928.

Agnès Varda (JPG, 25 KB)

French director (of features and shorts) trained in art and photography. Her first feature, La Pointe courte (1956), anticipated the New Wave in production methods and aesthetics. World recognition came with Cléo de 5 à 7 / Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962). Sans toit ni loi / Vagabonde (1985) was a universal success. Both films are powerful portraits of a female protagonist.

Varda's work manifests a central belief in film as personal expression, though she carefully places the inner world of her characters in a social context (her left-wing politics are explicit in Black Panthers, 1970 [US] , and in her participation in Loin du Viêtnam / Far from Vietnam, 1967). She places equal emphasis on realism and symbolism, as in Sans toit ni loi, a statement on the disillusioned post-1968 generation combined with Christian and pagan myths. Varda's relationship to feminism is complex. Some of her work is avowedly feminist, for instance, L'Une chante, l'autre pas / One Sings, the Other Doesn't (1977), a fictional rendering of the early French women's movement. However, in its celebration of biological femininity, it comes close to what feminist critic Claire Johnston saw, in the earlier Le Bonheur (1965), as endorsing patriarchal myths of women. On the other hand, in her seach for a specific "cinécriture", Varda is seen by others as radical. Jane B. par Agnès V. and Kung-Fu Master (both 1988) - both starring Jane Birkin - continue her in-depth reflection on the representation of femininity and female desire. Varda has directed a documentary on her late husband Jacques Demy, Jacquot de Nantes (1991), and a feature on the cententary of the cinema, Les Cent et une nuits du cinéma (1995).

— Ginette Vincendeau, Encyclopedia of European Cinema

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