“The director and artist Agnes Varda died at her home on Thursday night 29 March of cancer complications. She was surrounded by her family and friends,” the family said in a statement.
Varda recently presented a new film at the Berlin International Film Festival, an event with which she was long connected. She admitted there that she was feeling old, saying: “I have to prepare to say goodbye.”
Varda was born in Ixelles, Belgium, in 1928 and grew up alongside four brothers and sisters. In 1940, her family moved to the south of France to escape the war. She spent her teenage years in Sète port city in France, then moved to Paris where she studied at the École du Louvre and took evening classes in photography at the École de Vaugirard.
Varda became a photographer with Jean Vilar who founded the Avignon Theatre Festival in 1948, then worked for the Théâtre National Populaire at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. She held her first personal exhibition in 1954 in the courtyard of her home. That same year, Varda made the move to cinema without any formal training. She founded Ciné Tamaris (a cooperative) to produce and direct her first feature, La Pointe Courte, which earned her the title ‘Godmother of the French New Wave.’
She has since directed many short films and features, both fiction and documentary. In 2003, she began her career as a visual artist at the Venice Biennale.
Varda lived on Rue Daguerre in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. She was married to filmmaker Jacques Demy and together they raised Rosalie Varda-Demy, costume designer and producer, and Mathieu Demy, actor and filmmaker.
In 1994, with a retro at the French Cinémathèque, she published a book named Varda. “Twenty-five years later, the same title was given to my film made of moving images and words, with the same project whose objective was to give keys about my body of work,” Varda commented when screening of the film.
Varda has made a wide variety of films in her life. In ‘Varda’, she shares with the audience what led her to do her husband’s work. She mentioned three words which are important to her: Inspiration, creation, and sharing. “Inspiration is why you make a film. The motivations, ideas, circumstances, and happenstance that spark a desire and you set to work to make a film,” she said. The second was creation, which according to her is how you make a film, what means, structure, and colours the filmmaker uses to do the film.
“You don’t make films to watch them alone, you make films to show them. An empty cinema: a filmmaker’s nightmare! People are at the heart of my work. Real people. That’s how I’ve always referred to the people I film in cities or the countryside. When you film something, a place, a landscape, a group of people, even if the subject is specific, what you shoot indicates your deepest project. I like to bring together reality and its representation. But I also like to juxtapose moving images and still images in video and in photography,” she added.