Tag Archives: agnès varda

Hawker On Varda

Hawker on Varda

It’s kind-of extraordinary that Agnès Varda isn’t as widely-known as her contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. After all, her groundbreaking La Point Courte pre-dates the acknowledged beginning of the French New Wave movement (Claude Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge) by three years, Truffaut’s The 400 Blows by four, and Godard’s Breathless by five. And if you’ve seen her follow-up, the achingly beautiful Cléo from 5 to 7, you’ll wonder why she isn’t one of the first names mentioned when we talk about 20th century cinema. She is an incredible director, and it’s amazing that at age 87 she’s still working, making documentaries, short films and TV series.

When The Age film critic and this month’s guest Philippa Hawker chose Varda, we were pretty excited to seek out all the little-known works and obscure gems from her career. And what a treasure trove it is.

We love cinema in all its various forms, and we don’t think we’ve had an episode of the show that is as diverse as this one. Before we explore the works of Left Bank Cinema’s beloved Agnès, we take a look at the current wave of superhero films. Love it or hate it, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed huge cultural, financial and critical successes, but the most surprising element has been the scope of the influence it’s had on the rest of Hollywood.

Not content with franchises that have simple sequential entries, studios are actively pursuing shared universes, with everything from Star Wars to Ghostbusters to Knights of the Round Table aiming for multiple orbiting teams that have concurrent adventures in the same worlds. How big has this impact been, and what can we expect from it in the future? Listen as we speculate wildly.

We also look at three of the key films from the past month: stripper sequel Magic Mike XXL, Gilliam Armstrong’s revealing documentary Women He’s Undressed, and, appropriately, Marvel’s Ant-Man.

If you want to brush up on the films of Agnès Varda first, check out our Cheat Sheet here, before streaming the episode directly from this page, downloading the mp3, listening via Stitcher Smart Radio, or subscribing via iTunes. Basically, our aim is to provide more avenues for you to listen to this show than you could reasonably need.

Outro music: score from Cléo de 5 a 7 (1962), composed by Michel Legrand

Hell Is For Hyphenates – July 2015

Philippa Hawker, film critic for The Age and Fairfax Media, joins the Hyphenates to look over some of the key films of this month: MAGIC MIKE XXL, WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED and ANT-MAN. Then, with Marvel’s “phase two” coming to an end, we look at the Marvel Studio model, and the unprecedented way in which it’s influencing the rest of Hollywood. Then Philippa takes us through the works and careers of one of French cinema’s most innovative and influential filmmakers, Agnès Varda.

The Agnès Varda Cheat Sheet

Agnes Varda

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: a double that will bring you totally up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

AV Films

CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 (1962) and THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS (2008)

After she made 1955’s La Pointe-Courte, Agnès Varda spent much of the remaining decade making short films until her second – and perhaps her best-known –feature film: Cleo From 5 To 7. This is a real-time (or close-to-real-time) story that follows a successful singer as she waits for some medical results. Okay, so our description makes it sound dull as dishwater, but it’s the exact opposite: absolutely stunning and funny and captivating. Cleo From 5 to 7 is truly inventive, and shows that Varda was doing things with camera movement and editing and narrative that was years ahead of her contemporaries. It’s only 90 minutes, and you won’t want it to end. So once you’ve watched that, throw on her 2008 documentary The Beaches of Agnès, which, as the title suggests, is all about herself and her work. It’s almost a cheat sheet itself: Varda explores her own memories and films, narrating her life in a way that only the charismatic and entertaining Varda could pull off. For someone who has been working constantly for over half a century, and switching between fiction and documentary, these are the two amazing films that make you an Agnès Varda expert in one easy (and damn entertaining) sitting.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Cleo From 5 to 7, seek out Le Bonheur (1965). This gorgeous film follows a young French family, with Varda eliciting a huge amount of naturalism from the very young children by casting a real life family. If you can’t get or have already seen The Beaches of Agnès, you should seek out The Gleaners & I (2000), the award-winning documentary in which Agnès explores the world of gleaners: the poor French citizens who search reaped fields for the occasional missed potato or turnip. Again, it’s a hundred times better than it sounds. Our paltry descriptions will never match the heights of Varda’s films.

The Hidden Gem: Want to seek out a lesser-known film from off the beaten track? Right in the centre of Varda’s incredible career is the little-known but hilariously-titled Kung Fu Master (1988), based on an idea by the film’s star Jane Birkin. This beautiful and funny film centres on a mother who becomes infatuated with a friend of her daughter, a young, precocious teenage boy. The boy is played by Varda’s son Mathieu Demy, and Birkin’s daughter is played by her real-life daughter, a very young Charlotte Gainbourg. This film is a true hidden gem; difficult to find, but so worth the effort. (As an aside, the story behind the making of this film is recounted within the brilliant 1988 documentary Jane B. for Agnes V., made simultaneously.)

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Philippa Hawker talking Agnès Varda, will be released on the morning of July 31 (AEST).

Our Next Hyphenate: Philippa Hawker

PhilippaHawker
Film critic, writer and July 2015 Hyphenate Philippa Hawker

Philippa Hawker is easily one of Australia’s most prominent and influential film critics. She is best known as film reviewer for The Age, a position she has held since 1997. She is one of the most incisive film critics in the country, able to balance a complex knowledge of cinema with accessible, engaging prose. And we are delighted that she will be joining us for this month’s Hyphenates!

So which filmmaker has Philippa chosen to talk about?

None other than legendary Belgian director Agnès Varda!
Directed by Agnes Varda

Though born in Belgian, Varda is more closely identified with French cinema. When the French New Wave began, Varda was part of the Left Bank Cinema – sometimes called a subgroup of FNW, other times called a completely different movement – alongside the likes of Chris Marker and Alan Resnais.

Her films are steeped in realism, with a distinct documentary style incorporated into all of her works. After her first film, 1954’s La Pointe Courte, she made the extraordinary Cléo from 5 to 7 in 1961, Le Bonheur in 1965, Vagabond in 1984, The Gleaners and I in 2000, and the seminal documentary The Beaches of Agnès in 2009. She has not stopped working since the 1950s, and has remained a consistent innovator her entire life.

She’s a name that’s known to ardent cinephiles, but rarely mentioned with as much frequency as her contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut or Claude Chabrol. So we can think of no better opportunity to find out more about this amazing director who has redefined cinema for the past sixty years.

Join us on July 31 as we talk Agnès Varda with guest Philippa Hawker!

Agnes Varda
Our next filmmaker of the month, Agnès Varda

Hi4H’s 2014 Year In Review

Hi4H 2014 Montage

2014 was a pretty great year for Hell Is For Hyphenates. We reached our 50th episode, we had our first ever live show at the Sydney Film Festival, we landed guests such as Lynn Shelton and Joe Swanberg, and, most importantly, we started this blog.

We thought this would be a good opportunity to take stock, and make some lists that isn’t the traditional “Best Of” (those will come later). Please feel free to chime in with your own answers in the comments.

Top five Hi4H film discoveries (that you hadn’t seen before)?

Paul: The Long Goodbye (1973, Altman – I’m restricting myself to one film per filmmaker, so just know I could’ve easily filled this list with Altmans: California Split and HealtH chief among them), M. Hulot’s Holiday (1953, Tati), An Unmarried Woman (1978, Mazursky), Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974, Hough), Subway (1985, Besson).

Lee: I’m also gonna limit it to one per filmmaker to keep things slightly easier. Images (1972, Altman), Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969, Mazursky), Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974, Hough), Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary (2002, Maddin), Beau Travail (1999, Denis).

Which new filmmakers to emerge in 2014 are you most excited about?

Paul: Can’t I just say “Xavier Dolan” five times? No? Okay. But Xavier Dolan is my clear #1 here. While he’s been making films since 2009, I saw four of his five features – two of which were premieres – in 2014. A preternatural wunderkind who brings a unique blend of social realism, melodrama and bold cinematic style to bear, with uncommon power and moxie. Ana Lily Amirpour (just for being supercool and singular of vision), Jennifer Kent (for bringing a dramatic, thematic approach back to horror), Damien Chazelle (while Whiplash blew others away more than me, there was an uncommon command of craft – and an interesting voice – I’m keen to see more of), Joe & Anthony Russo: with one film, these frequent sitcom directors managed to single-handedly restore my faith in the Marvel Studios model.

Lee: So, so many. Gillian Rospierre (Obvious Child), Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Charlie McDowell (The One I Love), Lake Bell (In a World…), Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night), Sophie Hyde (52 Tuesdays). I’m excited about what everyone in this group will make next.

Five filmmakers you’d like to see us cover on the show?

Paul: Because they’re Masters: Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Howard Hawks, Mario Bava. Because I want to examine their career in context: John Carpenter.

Lee: I’m gonna eschew the obvious names (Hitchcock, Scorsese, Kubrick), because they are givens, and go with Kenji Mizoguchi, Agnès Varda, Michelangelo Antonioni, Alexandr Sokurov, Douglas Sirk. Is that a bit of a pretentious list? If so, replace one of those names with, I don’t know, Brett Ratner. Or, better yet, don’t.

Given we’re an Australian show, what were your favourite Australian films of the year?

Paul: 1) Cut Snake; 2) Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films; 3) The Rover; 4) The Babadook; 5) The Infinite Man.

Lee: 1) The Babadook; 2) Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films; 3) The Rover; 4) Charlie’s Country; 5) Canopy. The fact that this list was so difficult to curate speaks to what a great year it was for Australian cinema.

Most Anticipated Films of 2015?

Paul: 1) The Hateful Eight (was there ever any doubt??); 2) Inherent Vice; 3) Tomorrowland; 4) Foxcatcher; 5) Serial Season 2… oh, it has to be films? Okay… Mad Max: Fury Road.

Lee: 1) Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice; 2) Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron; 3) Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight; 4) Todd Haynes’ Carol; 5) Martin Scorsese’s Silence.


Thank you all for listening this year. We hope you enjoyed it, and we hope you enjoy everything to come in 2015. We have some big plans we can’t wait to tell you about.

Big thanks to everyone who helped us out over the year, from our guests to the good people at the Sydney Film Festival, and everyone who loaned us the DVDs and autobiographies we needed for research. Huge thanks to our loyal artist Caroline McCurdy, who did all of our amazing artwork and design.

In the meantime, 2014 isn’t done yet! We have our final show for 2014 coming out on the morning of December 31, featuring Richard Watts talking about the films of Gregg Araki, so make sure you kick off your New Year’s Eve plans with our latest show!

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