NEW YORK — It can’t be easy growing up with a mother who is a world-renowned artist, filmmaker, photographer.
But Rosalie Varda had an exceptionally loving bond with Agnès Varda, whose life and work is presented in her mother’s final film, the documentary-biography “Varda by Agnès.”
“We never fought, even when I was a teenager. We had a good relationship. I was never in revolt thinking my parents were stupid,” Rosalie, 61, said of her mother who died last March at 90.
“Maybe because I was working in the arts, doing costume design for cinema, opera, the theater.”
Rosalie left her career a decade ago to assist her mother. “I said, ‘You’re 80, you’re working 12 hours a day. It’s too much for you. I’m going to help.’
“Still as an artist she was working a lot. She’s a powerful little dragon. Always curious about life, always in good humor. I was sometimes more tired than she was!
“After a whole day of work, she would say, ‘Let’s go to a museum.’ She had that energy and could always re-energize herself by art.”
Varda began in the ’50s first as photographer, then a filmmaker. Her best-known films reflect her curiosity, personality and interests: “Cleo from 5 to 7” (’61), a landmark of the French New Wave, is shot in real time as a woman awaits the results of a cancer exam. “Vagabond” (’85) presents various perspectives on a young woman, a drifter, found dead in a countryside ditch. “One Sings, The Other Doesn’t” (’77) examines the Women’s Movement in the ’70s.
As she accepted her honorary Oscar in 2017, Rosalie revealed, she said, “I’m on the margin but who cares? My films are seen. Even on the margin. I chose to do this type of career and finally, at the end, I didn’t make money but my films are shown, loved, protected.’ That’s enough.”
“Varda by Agnès” is a career review illustrated with film clips. It’s also an apt epitaph.
“It came from the fact that she’s been traveling the last 15-20 years going around the world, doing master classes. She didn’t like the name ‘Master Class’ because ‘I’m not a Master.’
“Traveling with her, I saw the effect she had on young audiences and said, ‘One day you won’t be able to travel.’ It was a lot with the excerpts and the conversation, three hours.
“I said, ‘Could you maybe give an overview of your work, not for the cinephile audience but for the people who have never seen your work?’ Then she understood.”
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