Students and alumna agreed Agnès Varda, a French film director, caught their attention with her quirky dancing and bubbly personality, as the big screen showed clips of her throughout the years in the BYU–Hawaii Little Theatre on June 19.
Agnès Varda, who passed away at the age of 90 in March 2019, was described as a “groundbreaking French filmmaker, who was closely associated with the French New Wave,” according to the New York Times.
The article added her films ranged from fiction to nonfiction, and several of her most famous films were Vagabond, Cléo from 5 to 7 and The Gleaners and I.
The forum was organized by faculty members Dr. Yifen Beus, Dr. Mason Allred and David Beus.
Yifen Beus, Dean of Arts and Letters, said, “This is the time where we get to see films, which is a popular entertainment form, and look at them and [see] how they can change our lives and change other people's lives as a popular mass medium.”
In one of the interviews shown during the forum, Varda said, “I didn’t have a career, I made films. It’s very different.”
Varda explained she did not have a career as she only had one movie, Vagabond, which made more than a million dollars and was shown in cinemas worldwide. However, she said she still loved her other films despite them not reaching as much of an audience as Vagabond did.
“In the cinema, I try to smooth out borders between documentary and fiction, black and white and color and cinema and art. That’s why I had three lives as a photographer, a filmmaker and a visual artist in the last ten years… So, for me, it’s still an adventure,” Varda remarked.
Regarding Varda’s personality after watching pieces of her life and films, Kammy Jiunni Hou, a junior from Taiwan studying hospitality tourism management, shared, “If people do not know about this lady and how talented she is, they might think she is weird, but, when they get to know her and her work, she is creative and special.
“She doesn't care about how people talked about her. She’s just herself and has so much passion for her films.”
The forum also discussed Varda’s filming styles and a particular scene from her film “Cléo from 5 to 7” was analyzed. The scene involved the main character, Cléo, singing about her current state where she felt “nervous about life and death and fears having no real influence on the real world,” according to a scene analysis from Penn State University.
Allred said the filming techniques used in the movie had a deeper meaning. In the same scene, Varda continued zooming in on Cléo’s face until her background was just a plain black background, which further emphasized her feelings as she sang about her fears.
Yifen Beus shared they chose a scene with the character singing because they were “trying to look into the functions of these musical numbers.”
She explained, “A lot of them are these kinds of crystal moments or what we call, ‘crystal song’ and they are the ones that exhibit the protagonist’s growing process.
“That’s the epiphany, the culminating moment of understanding and realizing the struggle they are going through or about who they are,” said Yifen Beus.
Kelsy Simmons, an alumna from Utah, shared, “I liked the fact Varda told stories about artists, and she has told stories she felt were important. She had a very human perspective, and I thought that was really nice.”
Simmons also said a problem with high art is “sometimes the only person who sees the symbolism and the depth [is] the artist, the creator.” She added if a film had a goal of sending a message to its audience, the directors and writers should make sure their message was clear enough for the audience to catch and understand.