Eclipse Series 43: Agnes Varda in California
Since her 1955 debut “La Pointe Courte,” Agnes Varda has roamed the globe with camera in hand, shooting whatever strikes her fancy and finding room for it, wherever she can, in her dozens of films. Her roaming approach foresaw the social media revolution; she’s been doing pictures-or-it-didn’t-happen since the infancy of lightweight cameras and affordable film stock. But her approach tends to lie on the opposite of narcissism. Sometimes she injects herself or what’s going on in her life into her work, but such actions tend to be oblique. If, as Wim Wenders has said, selfies are a perversion of photography, she’s always been looking out, entering the world so as to document its many, often literally colorful riches.
There are only five films in the new DVD set “Agnes Varda in California,” released by the Criterion deep cuts off-shoot Eclipse, and they’re all set in the Golden State, a place she visited twice during separate long stays. All five films happened by chance, some in the wake of bigger productions that failed to coalesce. Her first sojourn happened from 1967 through 1969, when her husband, equally luminescent filmmaker Jacques Demy, had his brief and troubled stint in Hollywood. He made the ignored “Model Shop” — intended to star Demy and Varda’s no-name friend Harrison Ford, whom execs replaced with the far more bankable “2001: A Space Odyssey” mannequin Gary Lockwood — while Varda bounced around, churning out three vital and free works of her own.