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(Credit: Martin Kraft)

Film

Agnes Varda named her 50 favourite films of all time

The history of French cinema is largely defined by the New Wave and at the heart of it all was the cinema of Agnes Varda. With a refreshingly experimental take on realism, Varda led the New Wave’s Left Bank by establishing a unique relationship between photography and the cinematic art-form through various enigmatic documentaries and films.

Varda began making films before the New Wave even kicked off, starting out as a photographer which explains her approach to cinema. While she did harbour aspirations for filmmaking, her knowledge of filmmaking or the history of cinema as she had only watched about twenty films in total until she was about 25 years old.

Incorporating her own instinctive sensibilities, Varda went on to become one of the most prominent directors in the history of French cinema. With masterpieces such as Cléo from 5 to 7 and Vagabond among many others, Varda created a special domain of French cinema that was completely different from what her New Wave contemporaries were doing.

She has been called ‘the grandmother of the New Wave’, a title to which she responded by explaining that she found it hilarious when she heard it for the first time. “I found it funny, because I was 30 years old! Truffaut made The 400 Blows and Godard made Breathless, but I had done that five years before with [1955’s] La Pointe Courte, my first film,” Varda said.

The legendary pioneer went on to add that her goal had always been to formulate a framework for radical art. “When I was younger, people were inventing a new way of writing – James Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner,” she reflected. “And I thought we had to find a structure for cinema. I fought for a radical cinema, and I continued all my life.”

Check out a list of the cinematic masterpieces that influenced Agnes Varda below.

Agnes Varda’s 50 favourite films:

  • A Room in Town (Jacques Demy, 1982)
  • A Single Girl (Benoît Jacquot, 1995)
  • A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)
  • Adoption (Márta Mészáros, 1975)
  • After Hours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)
  • Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973)
  • Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)
  • Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1945)
  • Dear Diary (Nanni Moretti, 1994)
  • Deep End (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1970)
  • Donkey Skin (Jacques Demy, 1970)
  • Hawks and Sparrows (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1966)
  • Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnais, 1959)
  • La chèvre (Francis Veber, 1981)
  • La jet´ee (Chris Marker, 1962)
  • L’Age d’Or (Luis Buñuel, 1930)
  • L’Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)
  • Le sauvage (Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 1975)
  • Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
  • Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)
  • Monsieur Hire (Patrice Leconte, 1989)
  • My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)
  • Padre padrone (Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani, 1977)
  • Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984)
  • Passion (Jean-Luc Godard, 1982)
  • Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
  • Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959)
  • Ponette (Jacques Doillon, 1996)
  • Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
  • Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
  • Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)
  • Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
  • Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
  • Sweetie (Jane Campion, 1989)
  • Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997)
  • Teorema (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968)
  • The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)
  • The Last Metro (François Truffaut, 1980)
  • The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963)
  • The Life of J´esus (Bruno Dumont, 1997)
  • The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975)
  • The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978)
  • The Truck (Marguerite Duras, 1977)
  • The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967)
  • This Man Must Die (Claude Chabrol, 1969)
  • Toute une nuit (Chantal Akerman, 1982)
  • Travolta et Moi (Patricia Mazuy, 1993)
  • Van Gogh (Maurice Pialat, 1991)
  • White Lies (Pierre Salvadori, 1998)
  • When the Cat’s Away (Cédric Klapisch, 1996)

Although she had only watched around 20 films by the time she was 25, it is evident from her selection that she became a formidable cinephile as the years rolled by. Such a development is natural in the case of all filmmakers but Varda’s line-up is simply mesmerising and endlessly eclectic.

Ranging from multiple picks of Godard, Pasolini and Demy to American gems such as Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, Varda’s taste in cinema is impeccable. She also paid tribute to the director whose works influenced the New Wave in more ways than one by including Robert Bresson’s magnificent 1959 film Pickpocket.