×

Agnès Varda on Radical Filmmaking: ‘I Never Thought I Didn’t Have the Right’

“I don’t feel like filming people that have power. I’m much more interested in the rebels, the people who fight for their own life,” says Agnès Varda, the French new wave legend, who will become the first female director to receive an honorary Academy Award on Nov. 11.

From her 1955 film debut, “La Pointe Courte,” to her recently released documentary, “Faces Places,” the unsung hero has been a theme in much of Varda’s work. “There is something so touching in normal people. They really have a beauty,” she says. “I feel that they need light. They need to be seen. They need to be listened to.”

The Belgian-born director started her career as a still photographer in Paris before moving into film in 1955. “I made a very radical film, a very daring film. I never thought I didn’t have the right,” says Varda about finding her own unique expression from the start, intercutting the story of a strained young couple with the daily struggles of the locals in a small fishing village.

Though that film, “La Pointe Courte,” has been adopted by cinephiles as the film that inspired the French New Wave movement, it made little money and it took seven years until Varda made her next film, “Cleo From 5 to 7”, which put her in the same category as French filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and her late husband, Jacques Demy.

Throughout her career, Varda has moved effortlessly between fiction, documentaries, short films and art installations. Though there are familiar elements to her works, the director sees each medium as a different beast. “When I do a fiction, even about normal people, I write a screenplay. I have my ideas. I organize dialogue. Fiction is my film,” she says. “But when I do documentary, I am at the service of the people I film.”

When it comes to her honorary award, the director admits she was surprised to find out she was even on the Academy’s radar. “I never thought that people of Hollywood would like my work,” she says.

The Oscar is long overdue, says Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president John Bailey. “She really is the legacy of the French New Wave. She might not like to hear that because she is active, alive and a vital filmmaker. But she’s also the living legacy of that history.”

The 89-year-old will accept the accolade as encouragement to remain curious. “I really love making films,” says Varda. “I’m blessed to be working in the world of cinema and art. It makes my life.”

More Film

  • Jodie Foster'Money Monster' photocall, Palais, 69th

    Film News Roundup: Jodie Foster to Direct, Star in Remake of Icelandic Thriller

    In today’s film news roundup, Jodie Foster is remaking Iceland’s “Woman at War,” the Art Directors Guild honors production designers Anthony Masters and Ben Carre, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” gets cast and Melissa Takal directs “New Year New You” for Hulu. PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT Jodie Foster will direct, co-produce and star in an English-language remake of [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in Remake of Denmark's Oscar Entry 'The Guilty' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bold Films, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker’s Nine Stories banner have acquired the rights to remake the Danish thriller “The Guilty,” with Gyllenhaal attached to star. The pic won the world cinema audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was also named one of the top five foreign language films of 2018 by [...]

  • Toxic Avenger

    'Toxic Avenger' Movie in the Works at Legendary

    Legendary Entertainment is developing “The Toxic Avenger” as a movie after acquiring the feature film rights. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers. Alex Garcia and Jay Ashenfelter will oversee for Legendary. Kaufman and Herz produced the original 1984 comedy, set in the fictional town of Tromaville, N.J., and centered [...]

  • Constance Wu

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Star Constance Wu in Negotiations for Romantic Comedy

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu is in talks to join Sony’s Screen Gems’ untitled romantic comedy, with Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman producing. “GLOW” actress Kimmy Gatewood is making her feature directorial debut on the project. She will be directing from a Savion Einstein script about a woman who becomes pregnant with two babies [...]

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal AoA

    Maggie Gyllenhaal on Why a Woman Director Doesn't Automatically Make a Story More Feminine

    Having a female director doesn’t automatically make a story more feminine, says “The Kindergarten Teacher” star Maggie Gyllenhaal, but when it comes to her film with director Sara Colangelo, she says the female narrative is fully encapsulated. “Just because something is written or directed by a woman doesn’t necessarily make it a feminine articulation,” she says [...]

  • Kevin Hart Hurricane Harvey

    Academy Looks Warily at Oscar Host Options as Board Meeting Looms

    Kevin Hart’s abrupt departure as Oscars host has left the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences scrambling to find someone to take the gig. As of now, the situation remains fluid as the group’s leadership explores options, including going host-less, individuals familiar with the situation told Variety. The Academy was blindsided by Hart’s announced departure Thursday [...]

  • Regina King Maggie Gyllenhaal

    Maggie Gyllenhaal, Regina King on Intimacy Experts: 'I Could Have Used the Help When I Was Younger'

    Maggie Gyllenhaal’s sex-trade industry series “The Deuce” features one job that’s unlike any other in television: an intimacy expert. During her Variety Actors on Actors interview with Regina King, “The Kindergarten Teacher” actress explained how the strange role is actually important in helping young actresses stand up for themselves, especially when it comes to sex scenes on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content