The film world lost a legend last week when Agnès Varda passed away at 90. The heartfelt outpouring of tributes from filmmakers, actors, and critics around the world says a lot about the legacy of the French New Wave icon who inspired so many. But she was most influential to a new generation of women filmmakers, a role she relished.
Varda’s influence is all over the work of Greta Gerwig, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, Kelly Reichardt and Crystal Moselle. Varda herself often expressed admiration for many of these directors when asked about new talent.
Here are just a few of the lessons the godmother of the French New Wave imparted to the next generation of women filmmakers, in their words.
The inspiration to make their first film.
Miranda July (“Me and You and Everyone We Know”): “‘Kung Fu Master’ (‘Le Petit Amour’) was the movie that propelled me to make ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know.’ I saw this when I was writing. It’s a weird movie, about Jane Birkin having an affair with a 15-year-old classmate of her daughter, played by her real-life daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Only the French could pull that off. I remember watching it and thinking there should be some way to have a romance between an adult and a child that doesn’t have to do with pedophilia. — The Guardian
Alexandra Hidalgo (“Vanishing Borders”): I cried the first time I watched ‘The Gleaners and I’ after having to teach violent, white-male driven films to my students week after week—there was this sense of relief, followed by the pure joy of seeing this woman’s journey. Gleaners made it clear that I could also make films and that I could do it on my own terms. — Cleo Journal
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She was the filmmaker of my life. Kung Fu Master was the movie that propelled me to make Me and You and Everyone We Know and her life was the one that most inspired me — married to another director, having children but always her weird self and always making things that were actual, spirit-filled art, not movies in the boring sense. This isn’t very well written and I am tearful. It was incredibly sweet and meaningful to me that our lives overlapped at the end. That I got to sit in her home in Paris and eat the food she made, that my child jumped on her grandchildren’s trampoline here in LA, that she wrote funny things on my videos, calling me a kook, as if she weren’t one. The whole time I was making this new movie I thought “I can’t wait to show it to Agnes.” It’s a small, selfish thought, but these are the things that help one through the long process. Just to not feel alone. I am indebted to you and forever grateful. Ok, goodbye. You did so good. Thank you. * * photo by @dianawpicasso who was with us that day.