It took until the age of 85, but director Agnes Varda, who will be honored at the Locarno Festival, is finally getting the recognition she deserves. The Belgian-born helmer unleashed a tiny tsunami several years before the French New Wave with her first film, “La Pointe Courte” in 1955, paving the way for the household names who followed.
Now, in 2014, with an Agnes Varda in Californialand exhibition running at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a show of new photographic work on view in Paris, and fresh restorations of her entire filmography playing around the world, Varda has suddenly become more visible.
At LACMA, she erected a symbolic second home expressly for the exhibit. “I have one foot in Paris, one foot in Los Angeles,” she explains from inside what she calls “My Shack of Cinema” — a rudimentary bungalow whose slanted roof and stained-glass-like walls consist of celluloid strips repurposed from a print of her film “Lions Love,” a time capsule to a more liberated L.A., complete with “a lot of nudity.” The structure, which serves as the centerpiece of the museum show, was commissioned by LACMA, which partnered with Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation to restore several movies from her Los Angeles years, including later pics “Documenteur” and “Mur Murs.”
The LACMA show ran through June 22.
In 1967, Varda and husband Jacques Demy moved to L.A. so he could direct “Model Shop,” a partial sequel to his 1961 film “Lola,” for Columbia. While Demy tried to navigate the studio system, Varda made small, personal films and took lots of photographs, the most significant of which hang in the LACMA show.
Meanwhile, a new series of Varda’s mixed-media triptychs was seen through April 5 at the Nathalie Obadia Gallery in Paris.
Looking back, Varda seems bemused by how much Hollywood has changed since the era of sexual openness, political activism and “artistic cigarettes” she chronicled in the late ’60s. Back then, everyone (even execs) had long hair and wore peace signs, she says.
“Now, they are just business people. They don’t play the game of being hippies.”