The Complete Films of Agnès Varda

Program 8: No Shelter


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Synopsis

A founder of the French New Wave who became an international art-house icon, Agnès Varda was a fiercely independent, restlessly curious visionary whose work was at once personal and passionately committed to the world around her. In an abundant career in which she never stopped expanding the notion of what a movie can be, Varda forged a unique cinematic vocabulary that frequently blurs the boundaries between narrative and documentary, and entwines loving portraits of her friends, her family, and her own inner world with a social consciousness that was closely attuned to the 1960s counterculture, the women’s liberation movement, the plight of the poor and socially marginalized, and the ecology of our planet. This comprehensive collection places Varda’s filmography in the context of her parallel work as a photographer and multimedia artist—all of it a testament to the radical vision, boundless imagination, and radiant spirit of a true original for whom every act of creation was a vital expression of her very being.

Picture 8/10

Disc eight in Criterion’s box set The Complete Films of Agnès Varda presents the program “No Shelter,” featuring the films Vagabond and 7 p., cuis., s. de b. . . . (à saisir). Both films are presented on this dual-layer disc in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and come from 2K restorations sourced from the original negative.

Though Vagabond is one of the older restorations in the set I’d have to say it’s one of the better-looking ones and that really comes down to colours because other aspects of the presentation aren't as strong. Most of the grading to the restorations in this set have a heavy warm/yellow tint, which looks awful a lot of the time, sucking out the blues and leaving cyans, while also giving everybody a sickly, jaundiced look, which sadly holds true for 7 p., the other film on this disc. Vagabond doesn’t suffer from the same thing, thankfully. Colours definitely lean cooler, which seems suiting to the film, and is at the very least close to the look of Criterion’s original DVD; the 2008 DVD had colours that did lean warmer. Reds look fine, which lends nicely to early morning shots, the purples found in the concluding "wine/grape war" (or whatever it is that is going on there) look the best they ever have, and skin tones at least don’t look jaundiced. Black levels are good, though some low-lit sequences can come off a bit murky.

Detail is a drastic improvement over the previous DVD, which I swear looked softer than the original, noisy as hell, DVD edition. Textures are also better. Grain is rendered decently enough, though it’s not as fine as some of the newer restorations in the set and there are moments it looks noisy. The presentation does still hold a film-like look, though.

7 p., in terms of film texture and look, is actually better in this regard when compared to Vagabond, and it delivers a sharper image in comparison, with better fine-object detail and nicer looking textures. Unfortunately, as I alluded to above, it has that heavy yellow tint, which in turn destroys blues, crushes blacks, and just makes everything ghastly to look at. It might actually be one of the ugliest looking pictures in the set in relation to colours, and again it’s disappointing because everything else about the presentation is excellent.

Vagabond (1985): 8/10 7 p., cuis., s. de b. . . . (à saisir) (1984): 7/10

Audio 6/10

Both films receive French monaural soundtracks, Vagabond’s in lossless PCM mono and 7 p. in Dolby Digital mono. Both are clean and clear with adequate fidelity and range. Music sounds fine, dialogue sharp, and heavy damage anywhere.

Extras 8/10

7 p. only comes with a 2-minute introduction featuring the director recalling her reasons for making the odd little short. Vagabond ports all of the on-disc features from Criterion’s 2007 DVD edition for the film, starting with Remembrances, what I guess could be considered a making-of documentary put together by Varda in 2003. Running 41-minutes she recounts the inspirations behind the film, revisits locations, and even presents new interviews, including with Sandrine Bonnaire. She also explains her reasons behind a few decisions (like suggesting a rape instead of showing it) and even goes over the editing, showing the two different takes she had for the films final key scene and then explaining why she chose the take she did. Though it works very well as a recollection of the production I appreciated Varda’s own analysis on her own decisions. (There is also a similar feature found with Cleo from 5 to 7.)

The features also present about 3-minutes’ worth of footage (now moldy) Varda filmed around one of the non-professional actors in the film, Marthe Jarnias (who also appears in 7 p.), under The Story of an Old Lady. Music and Dolly Shots is then a kind of video essay, put together by Varda, around the film’s score and creating dolly shots that the music would play over. Varda and composer Joanna Bruzdowicz both appear to talk about the collaboration before Varda shows the dolly footage from the film with the score, point out how the end of one shot connects to the beginning of the next one, connecting the protagonist’s journey.

To Nathalie Sarraute presents about 9-minutes’ worth of excerpts from a 1986 radio interview featuring Varda and Sarraute, there to promote the film by the sounds of it. Varda did base some elements in the film on Saurraute’s own experiences and both talk a little about that here, Saurraute also commenting on the film itself. The audio plays over photos of the two and photos from the production.

Before closing with the film’s trailer (as the 2007 DVD’s supplements did), Criterion does include a new feature, another David Bordwell contribution made for The Criterion Channel: Plotting in “Vagabond,” a 15-minute video essay. Bordwell covers the various narrative devices featured in the film: a “road movie,” a “mystery,” and a “network narrative.” He examines each narrative separately, showing how none of them meet conventional conclusions, and how things come together (and the various “narratives” converge) once the film reaches the train station. Sometimes the segments made for the Criterion Channel feel like they’re made more for binging but Bordwell’s are always worthwhile and I’m happy to see Criterion carrying them over to their releases.

I’m happy Criterion ported everything from their previous Vagabond DVD, which was probably the stronger set of supplements in the 4 by Agnès Varda box set, but it’s still a bit frustrating that Criterion hasn’t put together much new material in the set, especially for shorts like 7 p., cuis., s. de b. . . . (à saisir).

Closing

7 p., cuis., s. de b. . . . (à saisir) continues the set’s tradition of delivering presentations that suck all of the blues out of the image, leaving us with an ugly looking yellow picture (a shame since the restoration is otherwise stellar). Vagabond has one of the better-looking presentations, so far (despite being older), if only because it doesn’t lean that awful yellow.

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Directed by: Agnes Varda, JR
Year: 1955-2019
Time: 2477 total min.
 
Series: The Criterion Collection
Licensors: Succession Varda  |  Les Films du Jeudi  |  Cine-Tamaris  |  Cinémathèque Française
Release Date: August 11 2020
MSRP: $249.95
 
Blu-ray
15 Discs | BD-50
1.33:1 ratio
1.37:1 ratio
1.66:1 ratio
1.77:1 ratio
1.78:1 ratio
1.85:1 ratio
2.35:1 ratio
English 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
French 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Musical Score 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
French 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo
English 1.0 PCM Mono
French 1.0 PCM Mono
French 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region A
 
 Interviews with Agnès Varda’s children, Rosalie Varda and Mathieu Demy,    Discussion about Varda recorded at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival for the North American premiere of Varda by Agnès, featuring Varda's children Rosalie Varda and Mathieu Demy, director Martin Scorsese, and Telluride Film Festival cofounder Tom Luddy, moderated by Annette Insdorf   Agnès Varda’s Credit Sequences: 2019 video essay on how Varda opens and closes her films, “cinewritten” by Alex Vuillaume-Tylski   Sensing Bodies video essay created in 2019 by French online publication Trois Couleurs   Conversation between director Agnes Varda and her cat Nini was shot in 2019   Trailer for Varda by Agnès   Janus Films Retrospective Trailer   2012 discussion between Agnes Varda and actor-director Mathieu Amalric about La Pointe Courte   2007 video interview with director Agnes Varda   Excerpts from a 1964 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps, in which Agnes Varda discusses her early career   2017 interview with author Jhumpa Lahiri on La Pointe Courte   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Du Côté de la côte   Remembrances (2005), a documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with Agnes Varda and actors Corinne Marchand and Antoine Bourseiller   Excerpt from a 1993 French television program featuring Madonna and Agnes Varda talking about the film   Cléo’s Real Path Through Paris (2005), a short film retracing, on a motorcycle, Cléo’s steps through Paris   The Music of Michel Legrand: video essay made by Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos for FilmStruck in 2016, explores the musical motifs in Cléo from 5 to 7   Trailer for Cléo from 5 to 7   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for L’opéra Mouffe   Agnes Varda on Les fiancés du pont Macdonald   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Les dites cariatides   Les dites cariatides bis   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for T'as de beaux escaliers, tu sais   Rue Daguerre in 2005, Agnès Varda pays visits to neighbors old and new thirty years after she made Daguerréotypes there   Bread, Painting, Accordion: short profile of Agnes Varda’s longtime bakery and accordion shop   Daguerreotypes, Photographic Objects: short video by Agnes Varda of a daguerreotype exhibit in 2005   Footage of an outdoor concert in Paris’s 14th arrondissement in 2005, shot by Agnes Varda   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Le lion volatil   Interview with Agnes Varda from 1998 about Le bonheur   The Two Women of "Le bonheur", a short piece featuring actors Claire Drouot and Marie-Françoise Boyer   Thoughts on "Le bonheur", a discussion between four scholars and intellectuals discussing the concept of happiness and its relation to the film   Two short pieces by Agnes Varda investigating people   Jean-Claude Drouot Returns (2006), a featurette in which the actor revisits the film's setting forty years later   Segment from the 1964 television program Démons et merveilles du cinéma, featuring footage of Varda shooting Le bonheur   Trailer for Le bonheur   2012 introduction by Agnes Varda for Les créatures   Television program covering the production of Les créatures   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Elsa la Rose   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Uncle Yanco   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for The Black Panthers   2014 introduction by Agnes Varda for Lions Love (...and Lies)   Viva Varda!, long-lost 1970 French television interview between Agnes Varda and Lions Love (... and Lies) star Viva   2014 introduction by Agnes Varda for Mur Murs   Two Street Artists, profile of street artists Jérôme Mesnager and Miss.Tic   Trailer for Mur Murs   Nausicaa: 1971 television film by Varda that was ultimately seized and supressed without reason after completion   Women Are Naturally Creative, a 1977 documentary directed by Katja Raganelli, featuring an interview with Agnes Varda shot during the making of the film, plus on-set interviews with actors Valérie Mairesse and Thérèse Liotard   Trailer for One Sings, the Other Doesn't   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Réponse de femmes   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Plaisir d’amour en Iran   Remembrances (2003), a documentary on the making of the film, including interviews with Sandrine Bonnaire and other cast members   The Story of an Old Lady (2003), a short piece in which Agnes Varda revisits actress Martha Jarnias, who plays the old aunt in the film   Music and Dolly Shots, (2003), a conversation between Agnes Varda and composer Joanna Bruzdowicz   A 1986 radio interview with Agnes Varda and writer Nathalie Sarraute, who inspired the film   David Bordwell on the plotting in Vagabond   Trailer for Vagabond   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for 7 p., cuis., s. de b. . . . (à saisir)   2012 introduction by Agnes Varda for Jane B. par Agnès V.   Interview with actor Jane Birkin about her work with director and friend Agnès Varda   Trailer for Jane B. par Agnès V.   2012 introduction by Agnes Varda for Kung-Fu Master!   Interview from 1988 with actor Jane Birkin and director Agnes Varda on the twin releases of their films Jane B. par Agnès V. and Kung-Fu Master! aired on the Swiss television news program Bonsoir   2012 introduction by Agnes Varda for The Young Girls Turn 25   2012 introduction by Agnes Varda for The World of Jacques Demy   A Fun Moment with Michel Piccoli, 2004 interview where Agnes Varda reflects on One Hundred and One Nights and shares footage from an with an on-set interview with Piccoli   Set Visits, Director Agnes Varda narrates this behind-the-scenes footage featuring some stars that make cameo appearances in One Hundred and One Nights, including Marcello Mastroianni, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Deneuve, Robert De Niro, and Alain Delon   Trailer for One Hundred and One Nights   Hands and Objects: on Agnès Varda’s Shorts, a conversation among Anne Huet, Agnes Varda, and critic Alain Berlaga about the director's short films   Excerpts from Varda's unfinished films La melangite and Christmas Carole   1971 commercials for "Collants Minuit" and "Tupperware"   Post-Filmum to "The Gleaners and I"   The Gleaners Museum   Pre-Filmum to "The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later"   Tribute to Zgougou, tribute to Varda's cat   Chance is the Best Assistant: codirectors Agnes Varda and JR discuss the making of Faces Places   "The Beach Cabin" outtake from Faces Places   Codirectors Agnes Varda and JR discuss the music of Faces Places with composer Matthieu Chedid   Trailer for Faces Places   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Salut les cubains   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Ulysse   Une minute pour une image: a selection of photographs accompanied by commentary by intellectuals and artists - the filmmaker herself included - for French television   2007 introduction by Agnes Varda for Ydessa, les ours et etc   Around Trapeze Artists: 2009 featurette directed by Agnes Varda   Daguerre Beach: 2008 featurette directed by Agnes Varda capturing the creation of the beach in front of her house for The Beaches of Agnès   Scholar Kelley Conway discusses director Agnès Varda’s unique approach to self-representation in The Beaches of Agnès   Trailer for The Beaches of Agnès   Quelques veuves de Noirmoutier: adaptation by Varda of a video installation originally created to accompany L’île et elle, an exhibition she had presented at the Fondation Cartier in Paris into a documentary for ARTE in 2006   Installations: short profiles by highlighting the installation work Agnes Varda did across the world as a visual artist, starting in 2003   A lavishly illustrated 200-page book, featuring notes on the films and essays on Varda’s life and work by writers Amy Taubin, Michael Koresky, Ginette Vincendeau, So Mayer, Alexandra Hidalgo, and Rebecca Bengal, as well as a selection of Agnes Varda’s photography and images of her installation art