The French New Wave movement re-shaped cinema as we know it. Bringing both realism and surrealism to the big screen, tapping into the 19th century idea of the flaneur and dragging it into the present, almost a century later.
“I’ve been in the middle of the passing of time all my life, and now I’m old, all these years feel not very light, not very heavy, but they exist,” she says, as we sit at the opening of her exhibition, Une Cabane de Cinema: La serre du Bonheur, at the Parisian Gallery Natalie Obadia.
In the exhibition, Varda takes the physical film from her past projects and builds structures from it that relate to the subject of the film used. For La Pointe Courte there is a boat, and for Le Bonheur, there is a huge cabane or shack. The light passes through the strong reds, yellows and blues of the film creating a warm glow. To enter the show, you have to pass through an arch made from metal film containers.
“The containers and the films are being thrown away,” she explains. “The theatres no longer want it, they don’t even have the machines any more, everything is digital now. So I took the boxes for the films, and I made an arch, like an entrance to the cinematic world.” This relates to Varda’s long interest in recycling, both literally and conceptually.
“In this work it’s totally linked, because here it’s about memory, re-gleaning, recycling physical cinema,” she adds.
Aged 90, she has just received a lifetime achievement award and was nominated in the best documentary category for her collaboration with the French street artist JR titled Faces Places.
The moving documentary follows Varda and JR, who is 33, around rural France as they meet people and choose some to photograph. Their subjects are blown up to a huge scale and pasted on buildings and structures, much like JR’s artwork.
“We met people and dis- covered subjects that no one knows about,” Varda sums up the film. On their journey, the two artists bond while discussing love, death, being young and growing old.