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Review La Pointe Courte (1955)

By Agnès Varda | France
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In 1928, a French girl was born somewhere in Belgium. 27 years from then she would made her first feature film titled, “La Pointe Courte”. She would then continue to mesmerize the world with her work — always poignant and brewing with a sense of realism — for the next several decades. She was the mother of the French New-Wave, a master of documentary filmmaking. She is Agnès Varda and she had just sadly left us a week ago.
It’s a sad thing death. It’s even scary sometimes for many of us. Yet, there’s always a certain courage and even anticipation of death that Varda infused into her films. No matter what the story, Varda delivers so in a matter that recognizes the mortality of the subject she shoots. This may not be so apparent in “La Pointe Courte” where the subject is not so much as a person, but a village and the culture that surrounds it. And despite it being true that the film itself is technically in narrative form but in all honesty, it acts so much so a documentary as it is a poetic French romance.
This is of course, quite typical for Varda. Her stories are afterall known for its personal quality, despite not being about herself or ourselves necessarily. She herself explained in a 2015 Q&A about the film, that this is where she began her journey to seek the connection between our social and personal lifes, or what she described as “our life inside closed door and around society”. That duality is still very much jarring here in her first attempt. Rather than blending the two, Varda intersect the film — almost as if colliding two films of extremely different genre and style — with the two narrative which fell off more as an act or comparison than an integration. And therefore it’s easy to prefer one over the other (I myself found the romance aspect more captivating). But comparing the two, I think, is not Varda’s intention nor should it be our focus.
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There’s really no better way to capture the essence of “La Pointe Courte” better than how Varda did in a recent screening of it. So rather than trying, I’ll just leave you with this transcript of her telling a wonderful story that not only summarizes the film but a glimpse of her point of view on life as well :
“I go to La Pointe Courte — like I go every time — and I see that they have photos hanging, photos of my film. I said, “oh look at that”. And a man came to me and he’s like, “you don’t recognize me? I was Raphael!”, the beautiful young man, you know. Shame on me. I said, “I’m sorry”. And he said, “look at that photo; this was my father, this was my uncle, this was my brother.” And I was mixed up, you know. And he said “oh.. your memory is.. like this *waves hand*”. “You’re older than me” he said. And I said “yes, I am older than you.” And it was a very nice scene because he was mad at me for not recognizing him right away. But I mean, look, between the age of 20 years old to 85 he ought to change a little. So, he got mad and we had a good laugh and I filmed that. So, I made the little DVD special for him so he could see the scene. I come next time to La Pointe Courte to bring it and he was dead. So, I have that feeling that things are dying around me and I last too long. I would love for the people die before me because it’s like my past and my cinematic past is in pieces now.”
— Agnes Varda (in a 2015 Q&A for “La Pointe Courte”)
May you rest well Varda and let it be known that your cinematic works shall forever live on within pieces inside our mind
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