Feature Friday: “Vagabond” (1985)

My favorite film of the 1980s? It’s probably either this or Blade Runner, depending on which one I’ve seen last.

Or My Neighbor Totoro, or Bad Timing. Hm. Well, that’s the company Vagabond keeps.

If I ever meet Agnès Varda (and here’s hoping), I’m going to ask her why she dedicated this movie to Nathalie Sarraute.

(For more of my thoughts on this great film, see this post. See also this short and well-made Film Art video essay on Varda’s use of elliptical editing.)

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An Interview with Me at Untoward

just went up—well, Part One did, in which Matt Rowan asks me questions about my first book (Amazing Adult Fantasy), G.I. Joe, geek culture, Ota Benga, Ayn Rand, George Orwell, and bad writing habits; we also discuss Curtis White, Theodor Adorno, Viktor Shklovsky, and ninjas, among other things.

[Update: Part Two, which focuses more on my first novel, Giant Slugs, is now up.]

Announcing a New Big Other Series: “A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies”

Jeremy M. Davies, flexing en route to the cineplex

In two days, I’ll be posting the first installment of a new ongoing series at Big Other: conversations I’ve had with my good friend Jeremy M. Davies about movies, new and old, both popular and obscure. It will be called “A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies” (unless we can think of a better title).

This Monday, and on the following two Mondays (the posts will be in clusters of three), we’ll discuss Source Code, Thor, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and many other films (including Sucker Punch, The Man from London, Tron, Tron Legacy, Willow, and Zardoz). In the weeks after that we plan to talk about Captain America, Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, as well as movies by lesser-known directors like Jacques Rivette, Eugène Green, Agnès Varda, and Jean-Marie Straub and Danièlle Huillet (Jeremy really likes foreign films). And the new Woody Allen film. We’ll also probably talk endlessly about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, because we both love it just so much. And throughout we’ll discuss the current state of the film industry. And comic books, which are synonymous with cinema these days.

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What’s So New about New Wave?


Vanity Fair, August 2008 (cover).

I’ve outlined some of the following in my Looking at Movements series of posts (more of which are forthcoming), but here I want to examine the New Wave tradition exclusively, and from a different direction. I’m increasingly fascinated by how that simple two-word term has been used over the past 50 years to describe so many different trends and styles, some of which have been fairly disparate. It’s a label that’s really traveled, and hasn’t finished moving yet.

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In Memory of William Lubtchansky

The miracle of empty hands (from Nouvelle Vague)

26 October 1937 – 4 May 2010.

William Lubtchansky was one of the greatest cinematographers of our time, and of any time. He shot films for Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, Agnès Varda, Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, François Truffaut, Claude Lanzmann, Philippe Garrel, and many others. Among his many accomplishments was helping to “romanticize” the work of Godard and Rivette: he assisted them both in transitioning into their later, lusher styles.

I’ve assembled below clips from some of the 113 films he shot.

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Some Thoughts on Agnès Varda’s “Vagabond”

Vagabond (Sans toit ni loi), is a 1985 film by the Belgian director Agnès Varda. Varda was part of the French New Wave (with Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol, and Rivette), although her first film predates that movement; some critics regard her as belonging more specifically to the simultaneous Rive Gauche (Left Bank) movement (alongside Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and others). Like all of those directors, Varda’s career outlasted the end of the Nouvelle Vague (c1967); her most recent film is The Beaches of Agnès (2008) (which I think the world of).

Since Beaches there’s been a growing consensus among film critics that Varda is one of our greatest directors, and that she’s been until now too overlooked, too overshadowed. The Criterion Collection recently released four of her major features (as well as a few shorts); that set includes Sans toit ni loi, Varda’s most successful and arguably greatest film.

I haven’t seen all of Varda’s films, and I’m no authority on her work, but I’ve been watching her movies since the late 1990s, and I’m now steadily (re-)making my way through what’s available. At the moment, Sans toit ni loi is my favorite film of the 1980s, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on it. (But beware of the spoilers after the jump!)

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My Favorite New Movies of 2009

[Update: 2010 is here] [and 2011 is here]

Here are my favorite new movies of 2009, like you care. I’m drawing from the films I saw in the theater this year, some of which were “officially” released a year or two ago. But they’re all new.

NOT one of my favorite films this year

…So, Mr. Cranky, what did you like?

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Invisible cinema: 7 p., cuis., s. de b.


7 p., cuis., s. de b. … a saisir

Agnès Varda directed this short in 1984. Sept pieces, cuisine, salle de bains …a saisir (Seven Rooms, Kitchen, Bathroom …a Bargain) is a film about a house. It’s an essay, in the erratic sense of the word, about time and space. The camera moves in the rooms like a visitor. Walls speak. Objects tell stories. And old woman is shown in all the dignity and beauty of her naked body (it rarely happens).

There should be more movies about houses.

Buy (here) or download (here) this incredible little film.

Agnès Varda’s films live here.