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“Varda by Agnès” is a poignant and joyous self-portrait of the remarkable late artist

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Agnès Varda, who died earlier this year at age 90, left a lasting impact on world cinema. She has been dubbed “the mother (and grandmother) of the French New Wave.” Varda received an honorary Oscar in 2017 and was the oldest living competitive nominee in 2018, when her documentary “Faces Places” was in the running for Best Documentary Feature.

Varda’s films are unique, magical, and special, as diehard fans will attest. She has a playful sense of wonder that infuses her work — even when she tackles a serious topic, like cancer, in her most famous film, “Cleo from 5 to 7.” She blends documentary and fiction in her intimate, personal stories about people and subjects that interest her. She left a remarkable legacy.

Her last feature, “Varda by Agnès,” is a fantastic, multi-layered self-portrait that doubles as a tribute to her life and work. The film (actually a two-part TV documentary) is a master class. Varda chats about cinema, photography, art, and even her cat, to various audiences — and viewers will hang on every word. And they will bask in every glorious image.

Around the film’s midpoint, Varda interrupts her monologue for a “prelude” to show some of the photographs she took early in her career, before she became a filmmaker. The pictures are stunning; her eye frames and her lens captures people in ways that reveal both them and Varda. What is more, viewers understand not just the appeal of the compositions, but also how Varda sees things. It is a quality........

© Salon