The Beaches of Agnes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am

The Beaches of Agnes
Director: Agnes Varda

In 2000, Agnes Varda made The Gleaners and I, a documentary which expounds on the idea that she, as a filmmaker, is as much a scavenger - of images - as those who collect leftovers for physical sustenance or discarded material for artistic endeavours. Ten years on, the 81-year-old French filmmaker has finally made that link explicit with The Beaches of Agnes, a 'cine-autobiography' which incorporates bits and pieces from her films as well as photographs and installations she has made over the years.

And of course, there are excerpts from her life: her relationship with Jacques Demy - in which, admittedly, Varda left many blanks in places where things might get a bit tricky, such as Demy's death from Aids-related complications - and also friendships with fellow film travellers Chris Marker and Jean-Luc Godard.

The result is, as Varda describes it, a 'databank' of her life, as seen through her trademark idiosyncratic essay-film aesthetics.

Given her standing as one of the most enduring and innovative figures in 20th-century filmmaking - and there's proof of that in clips from some of her most acclaimed work such as Cleo from 5 to 7 and Vagabond - Varda remains self-effacing as ever.

She mischievously describes herself in the film's opening sequence as 'a plump lady' in the process of reminiscing about her life. It's such humour that drives and endears - the way she recreated a beach on her Parisian street, for example, is a visual masterstroke - as much as the poetics that shape the proceedings.

If this proves to be Varda's swansong, no one can accuse her of going out with a lack of style.

Extras: Making-of short films.