At UChicago, filmmaker Varda reflects on an eclectic career

Susan Allen
News Officer for Arts and HumanitiesUniversity Communications

The French filmmaker and artist Agnès Varda has never shied away from trying new things.

In a career spanning six decades, Varda has experimented with style, subject matter, and medium. In 2000, she surprised many in the film world by releasing a documentary shot entirely with a hand-held digital camera, The Gleaners and I.

When asked earlier this month whether she would ever consider filming a movie with her phone, the 87-year-old director of films including Cleo from 5 to 7 and Vagabond—sometimes called the “grandmother of the French New Wave”—seemed game.

“I have started to do it,” she told students in a master class led by Dominique Bluher, who helped to organize Varda’s visit to campus, and Judy Hoffman in Cinema and Media Studies. “I do take lots of photos with my iPhone, and little bits of video. It’s just less heavy than anything.”  

In her comments to students, Varda emphasized the importance of making accessible work. "Could this image touch someone who lives in Texas and in Paris and [someone] in my family? We don’t film for ourselves,” she said.

The master class was one of many events held during CinéVardaExpo, a weeklong celebration of Varda’s work at UChicago. Varda spent Oct. 8 to 15 in residence at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts delivering lectures and participating in public conversations about her films.

The Logan Center Gallery is hosting an exhibition of Varda’s visual art, “Photographs Get Moving (potatoes and shells, too),” which runs through Nov. 11.

Speaking before the opening of the show on Oct. 9, Varda reflected on her “three lives” as a photographer, filmmaker and visual artist. “I’ve been doing too many things,” she joked.

She feels grateful, she said, to have the energy to continue to work well into her 80s. “I’m still learning about what I see,” she explained. “It makes life interesting."

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