Meeting Agnès Varda: a First-Person Fan Narrative


— Britt Faulkner

It was my last afternoon in France and I was slowly winding my way down Parisian side streets after departing La Cinémathèque Francaise, returning to the grassy parks of the Eiffel tower to watch the sun set one last time.  I walked past a storefront display filled with sun-bleached and dusty cinema memorabilia.  Scattered through the eclectic collection were posters, dvds and screen plays of the New Wave director Agnès Varda and her late husband, Jacques Demy.  This piqued my interest as a fan of French cinema, and particularly the works of Varda whose unabashedly personal and innovative filmmaking style had always appealed to me.  Varda had long featured as one of my favorite film directors, and I took stumbling across this shop as a good omen.  Before thinking much, I summoned the courage to knock on the door.  After someone replied for me to enter, my jaw dropped upon walking in to see the 83 year old Varda, hard at work editing her latest film.

In the shock of the moment, I neglected to tell her that I had written a paper on Beaches of Agnès (2008), or that I was in school completing an MFA in Film and an MA in Cinema Studies, or that she had inspired me to embark on the unforgiving and risky occupation of filmmaking.  I barely managed to stammer that I was a fan.  I asked if I could take a photo and she agreed.  She was late for a party and began to collect her belongings and head to the door.  She scooped up a laptop and a gray tabby cat and threw a DSLR around her neck before turning to me and saying, “This is all you need in life:  a computer, a camera, and a cat.”  Varda exited through the front door, arms full, leaving me reeling in my serendipitous moment of bliss.

In that moment, the honor and pertinence of my chosen vocation shone crystalline clear.  The patron saint of women filmmakers herself had smiled upon me, reaffirming the optimistic and adventurous spirit that led me to pursue filmmaking in the first place.  For me, that is the legacy of the French New Wave —its invigorating potential to simplify, innovate, and affirm the value of personal expression through cinema.

Posted on May 28, 2012

Britt Faulkner is a current student in the dual-degree program (MA in Cinema Studies and MFA in Film/TV) at Savannah College of Art and Design.  She is completing her thesis on postmodern musical numbers in contemporary comedies.  Faulkner currently resides in Wiltshire, England and works at Marlborough College.