cover image A Complicated Passion: The Life and Work of Agnès Varda

A Complicated Passion: The Life and Work of Agnès Varda

Carrie Rickey. Norton, $29.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-86676-6

Film critic Rickey delivers the definitive biography of French filmmaker Agnès Varda (1928–2019). Born in Belgium, Varda fled the country after the Nazis invaded in 1940 and settled down in Paris several years later. There, Varda took photography classes and picked up gigs shooting portraits of children with Santa Claus. At age 25, she made her first film, La Pointe Courte, as something of a lark (she had seen fewer than 25 films at the time), but its distinctive modernist ethos established Varda as a talent to watch. Discussing how the director drew creativity from practical restraints, Rickey notes that Varda’s opus, Cléo from 5 to 7, was conceived as a lower-budget alternative to another project that would have required a sprawling cast and on-location shoots in Venice. In addition to budget constraints, sexism in the American and French film industries would be another constant in Varda’s life. For instance, Rickey recounts how Varda pulled out of a 1967 deal with Columbia Pictures after an executive pinched her cheek during a meeting. Rickey captures Varda’s tenacity and pluck (one chapter details how while making La Pointe Courte, Varda navigated the French film industry’s byzantine regulations through a mixture of fibbing and waivers), serving up a portrait of an artist determined to succeed on her own terms. This is a must for cinephiles. (Aug.)