Daguerrotypes: French Filmmaker Agnes Varda Savors The Past as Present

117

While increasingly hi-tech blockbuster extravaganzas continue to crowd out one another on the multiplex screens, and the simple pleasures of face-to-face conversations rather than cell phones that defined human communication in the past are diminished, films that reawaken that faded reality can be like hidden treasures discovered amid all that artificial noise. Which is what makes French director Agnes Varda’s (The Beaches of Agnes , The Gleaners and I) very personal and potent mood piece, Daguerreotypes such a joyous found visual and tactile experience to be savored from the past.

Filmed in 1975 in a space that never actually leaves the filmmaker’s tiny neighborhood where she lived for more than half a century, Daguerreotypes is an exquisite travelogue where the audience feels privileged to accompany Varda on her familiar daily rounds, from perfume makers and trinket merchants, to butchers and bakers. And in a nearly hushed space whose inventory seems suspended in time, the ‘mysteries of daily exchange’ resonate. Including windows filled with artfully shaped breads, the conjuring of incidental street magic, and the total price of purchased goods calculated by the shopkeepers, with simple pen and paper in hand. And where the word consumerism has amazingly, never been uttered.

Daguerrotypes, which will have its theatrical US premiere at NY’s Maysles Cinema in Harlem through December 18th, will be preceded by the short film, Elsa la Rose (1965, 20 minutes), also directed by Agnes Varda along with Raymond Zanchi. This cinematic valentine, narrated by Michel Piccoli and photographed in luminous black-and-white by Willy Kurant and William Lubtchansky, documents the romance between celebrated writers Louis Aragon and Elsa Triolet. Daguerrotypes is part of the bi-monthly series, Documentary in Bloom: New Films Presented by Livia Bloom.

Daguerreotypes, directed by Agnes Varda

1975, 74 minutes, unrated. In French with English subtitles

A Cinema Guild release

More information is online at: Mayslesinstitute.org

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.