As part of our ongoing spotlight on luminary French filmmaker Agnès Varda, subject of the VIVA VARDA! exhibition currently on view at the French Cinématheque, we are excited to present this recently restored and previously unseen short from Agnès Varda’s trip to the 1966 New York Film Festival. Made up of images shot with radical Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini on 42nd Street in ‘66 and accompanied by an interview with him recorded the following year, this cinematic artifact is a breezy snapshot of two friends, who just so happen to be artistic geniuses, talking about matters important to them.
Filming with a 16mm camera, Varda makes New York look radiant by focusing on the flickering neon lights lining its streets. Her attention to the city’s hustle-and-bustle creates the perfect chaotic backdrop for a contemplative Pasolini to calmly wax poetic about his approach to filmmaking. This juxtaposition between Pasolini’s stoic demeanor and the freneticism on display around him magnifies the weight of his words, isolating his penchant for philosophizing on the spot.
“What’s really important is to have an intense, (violent) feeling for images. The real problem is to use images which represent something for you personally, which has a certain strength.” AGNÈS VARDA
Despite Varda and Pasolini’s different approaches to filmmaking, their shared belief in cinema as a language of stirring images, as well as their mutual admiration of political groups such as the Black Panthers, united them as trailblazing humanists whose artistic ambitions were always politically motivated. This rare glimpse at one of their encounters, which Varda’s daughter Rosalie rescued from Ciné-Tamaris’s cellar during the pandemic, displays the deep respect both artists had for one another while also testifying to the fact that contemporaneous filmmakers will always be excited to probe the limits of cinema with their friends.
Agnès Varda was a filmmaker of singular grace whose free-spirited approach to the medium resulted in some of the most touching works of cinema over the last seventy years. Films such as Salut les Cubains (1963), Black Panthers (1968), and One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (1977) all demonstrate her knack for imbuing political ideas with hope and humanity; in turn, gesturing at a brighter future that was premised on her sustained engagement with solidarity action. In the words of her collaborator Jane Birkin, “she was an extraordinary bundle of curiosity and energy and she was extraordinarily brave and uncomplaining.”
Text written by Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer. Special thanks to Rosalie Varda.
Pier Paolo Pasolini – Agnès Varda – New York – 1967 © ciné-tamaris 2022