From her early, New Wave–defining films to the quicksilver documentaries she made in the twenty-first century, Agnès Varda led a long and remarkable career devoted to experimentation with film form. A perfect illustration of the complexity and restless inventiveness of her storytelling, the elusive, award-winning drama Vagabond (1985) stars Sandrine Bonnaire as Mona, a teenage drifter who, at the beginning of the movie, turns up dead in a rural roadside ditch. As Professor David Bordwell observes in the new episode of the Criterion Channel’s monthly series Observations on Film Art, Varda proceeds, over the course of the flashback-heavy film, to make brilliant use of no fewer than three basic plot patterns—the road movie; the investigative mystery; and the network narrative, reliant on characters’ interconnectedness (e.g., Nashville)—in reconstructing the last weeks of Mona’s life. And Vagabond’s structural daring carries all the way through to its final frames: in the above excerpt from the episode, Bordwell finds that, in refusing to resolve any of the film’s various narrative threads, Varda leaves viewers to confront their own feelings about Mona and her scorn for society.
Alex Ross Perry Pays a Visit to Great American Iconoclast Paul Schrader
On the set of his latest film, First Reformed, writer-director Paul Schrader reflects on the art of cinema and his uncompromising explorations of sin, guilt, and faith.
Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Most Unusual Experiment
In the latest episode of Observations on Film Art, scholar David Bordwell examines the deeply strange horror film Vampyr, which uses popular material as a springboard for innovations in mood and technique.