That’s how Agnes Varda describes herself. Once she even went to an art exhibit dressed as a potato. Her new “subjective documentary” The Beaches of Agnès came and went already in Chicago and I missed it, but it’s now playing at the Film Forum in New York, among other places.
Varda has been regarded as the grand-mère of the Modernist French cinema since before she was thirty years old, and her dowdy image and impish smile seems to be designed to make us forget what an exemplary filmmaker she is: restlessly innovative, always pushing the medium to its limits. Too many young American filmmakers have made a reputation for independence and artistic integrity by relying on a set of recognizable tropes that say “indie film”: ingénue lead actress, hand-held camera, pervasive mumbling. Varda could have made a comfortable career repeating Cléo de 5 à 7 over and over again, but like the heroine of that film, Varda made her statement and moved on.