×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cannes Film Festival Topper Remembers Agnes Varda, ‘An Artist Unlike Any Other’

Agnès was an artist. And like all artists, she made our lives different. She captured life through the most normal lens to reveal what is beautiful and strange about it, while also working tirelessly to expose the false truths. Her presence in the world was absolutely unique but also intuitive, such that nothing surprised us coming from her: an idea, a phrase, a photograph, a documentary.

It’s thanks to her film “The Gleaners and I” — which I saw at Cannes in 2000 as a simple festivalgoer — that, when I became artistic director a year later, I made it a point to program documentaries and essay films in the official selection. And what an extraordinary moment it was, in 2017, to welcome her for “Faces Places” in the grande salle of the Palais!

Agnès was the vital link in an invisible chain of women filmmakers, rubbing elbows with Alice Guy Blaché and Germaine Dulac, Ida Lupino and Dorothy Arzner. No doubt she will be remembered as the most important female director in the history of cinema. The lone woman among the men of the French New Wave, she and Jean-Luc Godard outlived them all. While she never distanced herself from the feminist fight, she rarely made that the central theme of her work. Rather, she aspired to be seen first as a photographer, a filmmaker, a creator in her own right. Not “because she was a woman,” but because she was an artist.

At the same time, what she brought to the history of cinema — her themes, scenes, casting ideas and gentle yet determined approach to filmmaking — all of this is unique and comes from the sensibility and creativity of a woman, a spouse, a mother. Those three titles, which she claimed totally and which made her who she was, undoubtedly nourished her imagination without ever limiting it, because her imagination was boundless.

In 2015, Pierre Lescure and the Cannes team gave her an honorary Palme d’Or. What earned her the applause was not just the admiration of the entire world but the words of her acceptance speech, the meaning she gave to the award when she spoke of her youth and encouraged the next generation to get involved.

In 2017, the Academy gave her an honorary Oscar, which was also an unforgettable moment — especially seeing her dance with Angelina Jolie. In 2018, she and Cate Blanchett led the women’s march up the steps of the Palais in Cannes. We were all overwhelmed, once again, by the admiration and the respect that everyone showed her.

Last Thursday, Agnès felt that she was about to leave us and called a few of her friends to say goodbye. I had the privilege of being one of them, but that didn’t lessen the shock or the grief of losing her, nor can it make up for all that she brought into our lives.

If, as François Truffaut claimed, Jean Renoir was the top man in French cinema, well then, Agnès Varda was surely his counterpart among women. Like him, she was someone of strong convictions, prepared to struggle for her cause — an artist unlike any other, an invaluable friend and an irreplaceable human being.

Thierry Frémaux is the artistic director of the Cannes Film Festival.

More Film

  • Raising Hell: The Life and Times

    Film Review: 'Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins'

    One of the more entertaining as well as insightful political commentators of the past half-century is paid a suitably entertaining tribute in “Raise Hell.” A long tall Texan too amusingly outrageous to draw real resentment from most of her targets, Molly Ivins nonetheless aimed stinging criticism at political figures both national and in her native [...]

  • The Lighthouse

    Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Unveils Lineup

    Robert Eggers’ anticipated “The Lighthouse” with Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, Bertrand Bonello’s “Zombi Child” and Japanese helmer Takashi Miike’s “First Love” are set to unspool at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight under the new leadership of Paolo Moretti. Described by Moretti as a “hypnotic two-hander” powered by Pattinson and Dafoe, “The Lighthouse” is fantasy horror film [...]

  • Media Luna Acquires ‘We Had It

    Cannes Festival: Media Luna Takes ‘We Had It Coming,’ ‘The Friendly Man’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run-up to next month’s Cannes Festival, Cologne-based Media Luna New Films has acquired international rights to “We Had It Coming,” starring Natalie Krill (“Wynonna Earp,” “Below Her Mouth”) and Brazil’s “The Friendly Man,” one of the standouts at Ventana Sur’s strong Copia Final showcase of near-finished Latin American movies. MK2 Mile End will [...]

  • ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Stars Make Emotional Speeches

    ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Stars Make Emotional Speeches at Historic Marvel Premiere

    If more than twenty worldwide blockbusters over ten years sounds like a big undertaking, try locking up the cell phones and smartwatches of Hollywood’s most important people for four hours. Only a franchise with the cache of the “Avengers” series could have A-list talent, celebrity fans, agents and executives gladly turn over their gadgets for [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' First Reactions: 'Most Emotional, Most Epic MCU Film'

    The end is finally here. “Avengers: Endgame” had its world premiere Monday night at the Los Angeles Convention Center and reactions on social media from fans, journalists and critics are already pouring in. The reaction has so far been almost universally positive, with several commentors warning fans of the movie’s emotional elements. Related Cannes Reinstates [...]

  • Josh Brolin, Kathryn Boyd. Josh Brolin,

    'Avengers: Endgame's' Josh Brolin: Thanos' Butt Is a 'Beautiful, Purple Peach'

    On the eve of “Avengers: Endgame’s” world premiere, everyone’s thoughts have turned to the one crucial detail that could be the difference between life or death for the Avengers: Does Thanos have a butt? “I don’t know what that whole thing is about! I really don’t!” Josh Brolin, who plays Thanos, told Variety‘s Marc Malkin [...]

  • Tessa Thompson'Avengers: Endgame' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    'Avengers: Endgame's' Tessa Thompson Says Valkyrie Would Spoon Captain Marvel, Thor

    Tessa Thompson, who plays Valkyrie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and upcoming “Avengers: Endgame,” had no problem addressing speculation about the character’s sexuality at the “Endgame” red carpet premiere Monday. The “Sorry to Bother You” actress explained that she played her Marvel character as bisexual. “In the canon, [Valkyrie] is bisexual. You see her with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content