Agnes Varda Sparks Old Love for French New Wave

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If you had asked me before last Friday night what other woman, living or dead, I would like to be, I would have been at a loss: Joan of Arc? Too crispy. Mother Theresa? No fashion sense. Billie Holiday? Too blue.

But now, after watching the autobiographical documentary “The Beaches of Agnes” at the Bill Cosford Cinema I’m now ready to trade in my life for that of the octogenarian French filmmaker Agnes Varda. Oh, to be half so charming, a tenth as accomplished. The film is a deliberate muddle of the filmaker’s past and present, with footage from her films and those of her late husband, fellow French New Wave auteur, Jacques Demy, juxtaposed with present day reminiscences.

Varda’s whimsy and fresh eyes have not dimmed over the decades. Hers has been a life where every detail was thought out (or invented on the spot) to bring the most joy or the most power to life. Here, in their younger days, she and Demy walk nude, backwards, hand in hand, throught the Parisian courtyard where they raised their family and wrote their films. There she is in Hollywood in 1968, shooting stark images of the Black Panthers, swaying, singing, and saluting on the street. And now, she’s moved her film company onto a street that she has filled with sand to make an ersatz beach, so that her staff bats around a beach ball while fielding phone calls.

Make life more like the movies? As long as it’s more like the French New Wave movies, why not?

And this is just the beginning of the Cosford’s New Wave Now: 50 Years of the French New Wave series, a delightful program that includes:

SEPTEMBER 17: Claude Chabrol’s COMEDY OF POWER SEPTEMBER 24: Barbet Schroeder’s TERROR’S ADVOCATE OCTOBER 1: Claude Lelouch’s ROMAN DE GARE OCTOBER 8: Eric Rohmer’s ROMANCE OF ASTREA AND CELADON OCTOBER 15: Christophe Honoré’s LOVE SONGS

New Wave Now: 50 Years of the French New Wave runs through October 15 at the Bill Cosford Cinema, second floor of the Memorial Building at University of Miami, Coral Gables, 305-284-4861, com.miami.edu/cosford. Tickets cost $8 for general public; $6 for UM students.