A Little Story from Agnès Varda

On Film / The Daily — Apr 9, 2020
Agnès Varda’s Mur Murs (1980)

Of all the home viewing tips offered over the past few weeks, perhaps none will be as delightful to those of us who miss moviegoing culture as The Little Story of Gwen from French Brittany, a brisk five-minute short film that Agnès Varda made in 2008. Sprinting lightly between the present and reconstructed flashbacks, Varda tells the tale of Gwen Deglise, who left France “with empty pockets” for Los Angeles, where, short story even shorter, she became the head of programming at the American Cinematheque. “It is just one of many examples of the California dream,” says Varda, who spent a few years in the Golden State herself in the late 1960s and early 1980s.

Deglise’s story reminds Varda of Patricia Mazuy, the French filmmaker who also ventured west as a young woman and wound up working with Varda and her team as an editor on Mur Murs (1980), and eventually, back home, on Vagabond (1985) as well. “Let’s get back to Gwen,” says Varda after the brief diversion. From a modest cinema, bookstore, and coffee shop where Jacques Demy’s Bay of Angels (1963) is being screened, we head to the two theaters run by the nonprofit American Cinematheque, the Egyptian, that grand palace that hosted Hollywood premieres back in the 1920s, and the Aero in Santa Monica.

Deadline’s Pete Hammond reports that Deglise, announcing the exclusive digital premiere of The Little Story in a letter to Cinematheque members, writes: “‘Our lives often crossed paths,’ as Agnès would again say a week before she passed away last year . . . Of her many gifts: her curiosity was limitless, her appetite for life boundless.” The Cinematheque’s YouTube channel also offers Julie Delpy’s brief but heartfelt introduction to a screening of Varda by Agnès last December and—this one is particularly fascinating—Cinematheque chief projectionist Benjamin Tucker talking about how he’s keeping the projectors, some of them dating back seventy years, up to speed while the theaters remained closed for the foreseeable future.

The Latest

IndieWire’s Eric Kohn has called up Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux only to discover that there really isn’t any new news. Frémaux would still like to see the 2020 edition take place in the early summer, which still may or may not be possible, and he still finds it difficult to imagine a virtual event. Deadline’s Andreas Wiseman reports that this wait-and-see holding pattern is beginning to make several distributors antsy.

The Cinémathèque française is launching a new streaming service, freely accessible worldwide and featuring a new film each evening. The program, named Henri for Cinémathèque cofounder Henri Langlois, begins today with Jean Epstein’s The Fall of the House of Usher (1928). And at Hyperallergic, Dan Schindel writes up a list of more home viewing recommendations.

Film Comment’s “At Home” series of podcasts rolls on, and recent guests have included critics Ela Bittencourt and Jonathan Romney, programmers Nellie Killian and Ed Halter, and film historians David Bordwell and Imogen Sara Smith.

For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.