Jean-Luc Godard is rightly recognised as one of the pioneers of world cinema, known for his revolutionary approach to filmmaking which provided the much-needed momentum for the French New Wave. However, Godard has also developed a strong reputation for being incredibly rude due to many incidents – including a moment that brought the great Agnes Varda to tears.
Although both Varda and Godard played huge roles in the evolution of the New Wave, the two had vastly differing artistic sensibilities. Godard was a part of the New Wave’s right bank along with other famous practitioners like François Truffaut while Varda is often associated with the left bank which consisted of older directors like Alain Resnais and Jean-Pierre Melville.
That’s exactly why Varda was often affectionately called ‘the grandmother of the New Wave’ and she actually thought it was hilarious. Varda said: “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.”
Despite the differences between their respective artistic visions, Varda was a vocal admirer of Godard’s radical cinema. While naming 50 of her favourite films, she also included two works by Godard – his iconic 1964 gem Band of Outsiders as well as a later work from the French director called Passion (1982).
Godard was friends with Varda and her husband Jacques Demy whose contributions to the New Wave also remain vitally relevant. Through unforgettable masterpieces such as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort, Demy’s legacy remains alive in the minds of younger generations of film fans.
In Varda’s famous 2017 documentary Faces Places, she decided to pay a visit to Godard’s house along with the documentary’s director JR. She also picked up brioches from Godard’s favourite bakery but the French New Wave maestro rudely refused to see them by scribbling the name of the restaurant where all three of them ate before Demy passed away and the name of one of Varda’s films – Along the Coast.
Upon reading Godard’s message, Varda reveals that the scribbled message was all Godard wrote to her when her husband died which deeply hurt her. Varda declares: “If he won’t let us in, he’s a dirty rat”, before writing her own response on Godard’s door and leaving the brioches for Godard to enjoy later.
Watch the encounter below.