The French auteur exudes enigmatic godmotherly wisdom as she reflects on her life behind the camera and turns the lens on herself
Agnès Varda’s charming and approachable film is a semi-dramatised lantern lecture, an autobiographical, auto-critical work using footage from her speaking at various events, with clips and playfully dramatised reconstructions and superimpositions looking back over the director’s remarkable life and career.
Maybe it is her final film, but I don’t think so. Her energy seems undimmed, yet quite controlled and at ease, channelled into a tone of calm and beguiling wisdom: witty, equable, gentle. She is not grandmotherly, but godmotherly, granting wishes and making the business of film-making seem as magically straightforward as writing words on a page.
We never see an angry or fearful Varda – although she talks about her fears. She discussed the horror she had of turning 80, the figure seeming to her like the number on the front of an express train heading towards her. Now 90, she seems amused by that fear. Even problems with her eyesight are resolved into a whimsical, droll piece of visual comedy with the photographer JR, her collaborator on the documentary Faces Places (2017). Just occasionally, she talks about her films that flopped commercially, especially her fantasy comedy One Hundred and One Nights (1995) with its all-star cast, and featuring a “boating scene” with Robert De Niro speaking a hilarious phonetically learned French – surely alone worth the ticket price. However Varda felt about this box office disaster at the time, she just shrugs and laughs about it, a tiny incidental memory.