73-74, 418-420 4 by Agnès Varda

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Jack Phillips
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#101 Post by Jack Phillips » Tue Feb 12, 2008 1:45 pm

J Wilson wrote:
Jack Phillips wrote:Odd that in the flashback we see her, once in the water, grasping desperately at a tree branch, as if she were attempting to save herself. Doesn't seem consistent with someone who has jumped, but I guess you could argue that she changed her mind, just too late to do any good. You could also argue that such an action is consistent with someone who has fallen in accidentally.
I assumed that the shot of her grasping for the branch was his rationalizing something he knew to be his fault into something he could accept; much easier to live with her accidentally drowning than knowing you made her jump.
That's a possible explanation, assuming the flashback is solely from his POV. But other interpretations are possible.

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colinr0380
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#102 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Feb 14, 2008 1:05 pm

Tim Lucas on Les Fiancés du Pont Macdonald.

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david hare
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#103 Post by david hare » Thu Feb 14, 2008 5:37 pm

David, what the hell were you doing in Croydon in 1967?!?

Perhaps more to the point - HOW the hell can you remember ANYTHING from 1967??
It's not the 60s I can't remember, it's the seventies! Like Tennessee.

This was my first trip OS with the parents and had 18th birthday while in London December that year. An old boyfriend exOZ actor living in London then was dragooned into driving me down there to see this for the one nite only in his mini minor. Among other things seen during two weeks of that month: Le Bonheur at a grindhouse in SoHo; Belle de Jour at the Curzon (I had to prove I was 18!); Dame Larry in dance of Death at the National; Gielgud and Joan Plowright in Tartuffe at the Aldwych; and Tito Gobbi in Otello at Covent Gardnen, conducted by Solti! Whadda month!

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Michael
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#104 Post by Michael » Thu Feb 14, 2008 5:59 pm

Le Bonheur at a grindhouse in SoHo
Bonheur at a grindhouse? Did they expect "Boneher"? How was that experience for you, davidhare?

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david hare
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#105 Post by david hare » Thu Feb 14, 2008 6:41 pm

It's not the first fleapit I'd ever been to, Michael. There were a couple in Sydney during the 60s which were essential for viewing world cinema - one of them once did a double bill of Bunuel's Diary of a Chambermaid with SINderella and the Golden Bra.

Another memorable double from an old fave, Tower of Screaming Virgins with Harry Kumel's Daughter of Darkness.

But the London venue differed somewhat from the Sydney joints in that the all male viewers actually wore raincoats!

Sydney was always too warm for that nonsense.

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Michael
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#106 Post by Michael » Sat Feb 16, 2008 11:04 am

Very fascinating. I love reading all kinds of film viewing experiences from the past before malls and multiplexes started colonizing everywhere. And especially how fleapits, grindhouses, adult theaters and such offered foreign films like Le Bonheur of all films and so forth. Those days so rare.

Did you like Bonheur when you were 18?

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david hare
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#107 Post by david hare » Sat Feb 16, 2008 6:31 pm

I was trying to avoid bringing that up.

In a word no. I don't know whether it's the tone of super cool Agnes adopts in this, or the characterizations (I found Drouot totally grating and sleazily narciccistic) and I was totally unmoved by it. I simply don't see the depths of moral ambiguity so many ascribe to it through it's clearly shallow texture. For that gimme Rohmer every time. And for candy facades with great depths of feeling gimme Demy every time.

(I LOVE Cleo however.)

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Michael
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#108 Post by Michael » Sun Feb 17, 2008 11:36 am

Forgive me, davidhare, for provoking you into discussing Bonheur. I completely agree with your assessment of Duout (Franois): "narcissistic". Earlier here I called him "selfish" while some others called him "monster", "psychopath", etc which I don't agree with. Bonheur is not a moral story. I simply can't see Varda preaching morals. It belongs to the same suburb as All That Heaven Allows (with a guest house called L'eclisse and a shed called In The Mood For Love). They are melodramas drenched in extreme cinematic style that keep teasing and stimulating.

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jbeall
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#109 Post by jbeall » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:37 pm

Just finished Le Bonheur (three down, one to go!). What an amazing boxset. This is seriously the release of the year, thus far at least.

On the "is Francois a monster or not?" discussion, isn't Varda equally critical of the women who enable this behavior? How has the wife allowed her happiness to become completely dependent on her husband's?

Second, while Taubin may get some details wrong in her essay, I agree with her assessment of the subjective artificiality of all the kitsch, which Varda calls attention to with the colorful fades. I thought it was a much more effective and relevant baring of the artifice than Godard ever managed, and in a way that's far less condescending to the viewer.

I'd never seen any Varda films prior to getting this boxset, and I'm simply blown away. Onward to Vagabond!

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zedz
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#110 Post by zedz » Mon Mar 24, 2008 10:33 pm

This may be the best boxset Criterion have ever released. What makes it so strong for me is Varda's involvement in practically all the supplements: it makes the whole package cohesive and personal, and she has more of value to say in a half-hour 'remembrance' than most directors manage in a feature-length commentary. I still have Le Bonheur to go, but I'll add to the Pointe courte discussion:
GringoTex wrote:Cracked the set with La Pointe Courte, which I'd never seen before. While it's astonishing conceptually, I don't think it's particularly a good film. Almost every individual shot is a thing of beauty, but they don't go together very well.
I agree in general, even though the disjunctive style is clearly central to Varda (and editor Resnais') strategy. I see the film as driven by Varda's experience as a photographer, its two halves exploring the tension between the twin traditions of art and documentary photography. Hence the almost jaw-dropping beauty of every shot.

However, two alienated bourgeois characters narrating their ennui at one another is probably my least favourite of nouvelle vague tropes, and it's no easier to take in its first incarnation than it is in its umpteenth (hello, Catherine Breillat). The quasi-neo-realist local drama side of the film I find far more satisfying, even though it doesn't really add up to a complete experience. Still, you can always pass the time cat-spotting, and not just in this film.

Beautiful transfer and a beautiful package, and now I'm more impatient than ever to order that Varda shorts set.

Jack Phillips
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#111 Post by Jack Phillips » Tue Mar 25, 2008 2:11 am

zedz wrote:However, two alienated bourgeois characters narrating their ennui at one another is probably my least favourite of nouvelle vague tropes, and it's no easier to take in its first incarnation than it is in its umpteenth (hello, Catherine Breillat). The quasi-neo-realist local drama side of the film I find far more satisfying, even though it doesn't really add up to a complete experience.
Seconded. The gondola jousting had me in stitches.

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ellipsis7
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#112 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Mar 26, 2008 7:45 am

Sight and Sound thumbs up!

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#113 Post by fiddlesticks » Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:33 pm

Okay, this may be a silly question, but...

Now that Criterion has re-released Cléo de 5 à 7 as part of this Varda box, it appears that the original spine 73 version is now OOP. Despite it being inferior in many respects to the new transfer, does the fact that it is OOP mean that it has (or will have) and exaggerated value on the secondary market? Does the fact that the new transfer is not sold separately enhance the resale value of the old transfer? I have both the original #73 and the Varda box, and I have the old copy in my box of stuff I'm taking to Amoeba on my next trip to LA, but I wonder if I'm selling low on something that may have an irrationally high market value.

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kaujot
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#114 Post by kaujot » Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:35 pm

I highly doubt that it'll have a high resale value.

Napoleon
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#115 Post by Napoleon » Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:09 am

If its shrink wrapped then it will be worth (at least) double what you paid. If it isn't you ahould still get your money back.

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TheGodfather
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#116 Post by TheGodfather » Wed May 28, 2008 4:04 pm

I watched Cleo from 5 to 7 first the first time last night. And damn, what a film. Highly emotional experience for me, since I witnessed the same thing that happens to Cleo with my father last year. Beautifully shot, superb acting.
I loved the scene in wich she sings by the piano. Excellent.
The film stayed with me the whole day.
For anyone who`s interested, my complete mini-review can be read here.

I didn`t like La Pointe Courte that much but this was superb. Hopefully the other 2 movies from the box are equally good.

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domino harvey
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#117 Post by domino harvey » Wed May 28, 2008 4:08 pm

BFI's putting out a book on Cleo 5 to 7 for those inclined.

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LQ
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other book options

#118 Post by LQ » Sun Jun 29, 2008 8:14 am

Those interested in cutting through the thickets of feminist theory to get to some meaty varda morsels can also read Geetha Ramanathans book "Feminist Auteurs: Reading Women's Film". She has some really interesting things to say about Varda's films, especially vagabond. And there are some crazy-obscure films she covers too. In all, I can recommend it.

A caution to couples who watch Le Bonheur together: Lord help you if you take starkly opposite views. This is one movie that you might just regret watching together. To wit- my boyfriend saw it for the first time last night and the ensuing conversation led to shifty eyes and shaky why??s. I'm wondering how long it will take him to chime in here. We had an equally tense time with Jules & Jim

You are warned! ;)

btw I know you wrote them a while ago, but Gringotex and Michael, I greatly enjoyed re-reading your comments. I especially liked your last note of "who are we to judge...", Michael
Last edited by LQ on Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Michael Kerpan
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#119 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:33 pm

LQ wrote:A caution to couples who watch Le Bonheur together: Lord help you if you take starkly opposite views. This is one movie that you might just regret watching together.
My wife gave me some awfully forbidding looks when I first brought home (and played) Sondheim's Company. (she does like this now -- I think). ;~}

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LQ
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#120 Post by LQ » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:51 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
LQ wrote:A caution to couples who watch Le Bonheur together: Lord help you if you take starkly opposite views. This is one movie that you might just regret watching together.
My wife gave me some awfully forbidding looks when I first brought home (and played) Sondheim's Company. (she does like this now -- I think)
Ha ha! I've not heard it, but when I do...ill keep it to myself!!

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mfunk9786
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#121 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Jul 31, 2008 3:27 pm

GringoTex wrote:Francois believes happiness can be accumulated. This makes him psychopathic. He's so narcissistic that he confuses his wife's decision to commit suicide for her complete embrace of his own self absorption. These two qualities combined make him a monster, imho.
Agreed. He hasn't chosen a path that makes him happy, simply one that makes him just a bit happier. Guy would be thrilled to discover the Mormon faith. He just wants more sex, more strange romance, and subservient women around him to blindly accept it because it "makes him happy".

Unfortunately for him, by having entered into a union with a woman who he hasn't even suggested this predilection for multiple romantic relationships to, he isn't making decisions for himself anymore. He acts as if his affair is justified simply because it makes him happy, but he doesn't commit these acts with his wife and children's feelings in mind. He shows no respect for anyone but himself.

He doesn't love his wife, and doesn't love the postal clerk. He simply loves himself. And if that's what makes you happy, hey, that's fine - unless you've made your own decision to get married and have kids. Then, by not putting boundaries on yourself (regardless of how happy breaking them may make you), you're exposed for the narcissist and, yes, monster that you are.

I didn't see the movie as passing judgement on him, because I think Varda has enough respect for the viewer to realize that he's a selfish rat. NOT because he isn't worthy of contempt by the viewer. Just because she doesn't demonize him directly doesn't mean he shouldn't be seen as a selfish twat.
LQ wrote:btw I know you wrote them a while ago, but Gringotex and Michael, I greatly enjoyed re-reading your comments. I especially liked your last note of "who are we to judge..."
I don't think anyone should pass judgement on a person who likes to sleep with a bunch of different people so long as they're forthright about what they're doing.

But I do think that there's no reason not to pass judgement on someone who creates an illusionary existence for someone whom he professes to love, only to destroy it behind her back in the name of his own happiness. What's the use of being able to judge someone if you can't judge a snake like that?

If he were forthright with his wife about his feelings for someone else, and got her involved in his decision making processes about the status of his life like someone who has respect for their partner would, then he may be worthy of our sympathy. But by conducting his business behind her back and then having the audacity to suggest to her that she should go along with it, he deserves the viewer's scorn.

Just because someone's a character in a 1960s French film, it doesn't make their destructive and self-absorbed decision making any more defensible or admirable.

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LQ
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#122 Post by LQ » Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:10 pm

oh mfunk. good parting shot ;)

safe to say that this film stirs up some very passionate feelings, and much like something along the lines of the abortion issue, everyone clings wildly to their steadfast position.

moving on, I re-read this entire board, and I've got to say to Michael that your delirious enthusiasm for Varda as a person, director, and thinker made me giddy. If I could have tea with one person, dead or alive, it would be Varda. I too was changed for life after seeing Cleo , and the other films in the box set. It makes me weak in the knees and forces my stomach to drop to the floor when I contemplate the profound talent and humanity of this bitty little woman.

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mfunk9786
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#123 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:23 pm

And for the record: I like the film a lot. In case that wasn't clear. I just don't think it's a movie about doing whatever makes you happy; consequence, humanity, and responsibility be damned; simply because everyone's entitled to happiness.

Because after all, your loved ones aren't people just like you - they're just apple trees, or apricots, or whatever flowery language the husband continually attached to his poor wife. Just pawns in your own attempts at making yourself happy, everyone else be damned.

If Varda actually has that viewpoint, and is sympathetic to her male lead in this instance, I will eat my hat. Well, I'll eat a hat, at least.

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Michael
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#124 Post by Michael » Thu Jul 31, 2008 6:54 pm

Wow, you're pretty hard on Francois. Like Gringotex, still very valid points. But I could NOT help feeling sympathetic toward Francois as much as the wife and everyone else, especially the children (although Varda doesn't bring us to their POV or show us their thoughts but we already know they are damaged forever). Why am I not hard on Francois or the decisions he makes? What I take from him is that he seems to get completely caught up in the romance with a new woman, building on illusions and more illusions, it is a complete infatuation. Fresh skin, fresh hair. It's all new like a bright sunflower, seductive and alive and always beckoning. I know how it feels because I was in the same position before, that is "falling in love" with someone behind my lover's back. Does that make me a selfish person? Narcissistic? Monster? Psychopath? It's up to you to decide that if you want to as much as Varda leaves us to decide what to make of Francois. I was so impossibly blinded by the brightness of the "sunflower" - the illusion of happiness that lasted so briefly. I was lost and high. Thankfully no child was involved and my then lover is still alive.

We will NEVER find out whether the wife kills herself or not. If she kills herself, so does that make her a selfish person for leaving her children behind? I really don't think Varda wants us to judge Francois or his wife or the 2nd wife in any way.. the urge to judge comes from within, depending on the viewer, not from Varda. I think Varda wants us to question what "happiness" is (as evident in one of her shorts on Bonheur disc)..is it an illusion like the artiticial magazine-world feeling of the film? Looking through Martha Stewart magazines, don't we wish to live in those? Perfect living rooms. Perfect weddings. Perfect Christmas trees. Perfect linen closets. Perfect cream puffs. I know I do every time I pick up her magazine! It looks "happy" but it's all an illusion. The fact that we can't live up to that world of beautiful illusions, the world of beautiful lies, then what is happiness?

More on that soon.

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#125 Post by GringoTex » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:08 pm

Michael wrote:We will NEVER find out whether the wife kills herself or not.
I value your reading as much as my own, because I think our two viewpoints encompass the polarities Varda is addressing, but I have to insist that the wife's drowning is suicide. You simply don't fall from a guard-railed bridge- you jump.

But more importantly, an accidental death removes the moral high stakes. Francois drives his wife to suicide. The wife takes the supremely selfish stance in her suicide. So without the suicide, the moral ground we're trying to claim in our interpretation becomes moot.

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