The House That Agnès Built

Joan Dupont

I first met Agnès Varda a couple of decades ago, in 1998, at the opening of the Istanbul Film Festival. I was on the jury, and she was the honored guest. She arrived sleepy, suspended in time from some faraway place, and fell asleep at dinner. She doesn’t remember, but of course I do.

The next morning, she was up early, raring to visit the Bazaar and the Hagia Sophia; we ended up at a shop high above the city that sold ex-votos. Agnès swept up a small pile of the silvery tin eyes, arms, and legs, explaining that she had a collection. I happened upon an ear that turned out to be unique.

Oh, did Agnès love that ear, so much so that once outside the shop, I offered it to her. She asked if I knew how old she was, and I said no, suspecting she was a few years older than me, perhaps the same five years that separated me from my older sister who always wowed—and frightened—me a bit. Today, I have forgotten her age, our ages, despite knowing them all too well, suspended in a preferred disbelief.

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