Honorary Cannes Palme for Agnès Varda

Veteran director with “global impact”.

by Richard Mowe

Agnès Varda - honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival
Agnès Varda - honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival

French director Agnès Varda who has been described as the “grandmother of the New Wave,” will become the first woman to receive an honorary Palme d’Or during the Cannes Film Festival’s closing ceremony on 24 May.

The organisers say that the award is for “film-makers with a global impact who have never won the main Cannes prize.”

Varda, who turns 86 at the end of May, joins such previous recipients as Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood and Bernardo Bertolucci. Her father was Greek and mother French and she was born in Brussels on 30 May, 1928. She and her family fled to France from the occupying Germans and she grew up in the Midi. She began her career as a photographer for Jean Vilar’s Avignon Festival. Her debut film in 1954, La Pointe Courte, edited by Alain Resnais, is regarded as “the first film of the Nouvelle Vague.”

She continues to live in Paris with her beloved cats in the family home in the Rue Daguerre in the 14th arrondissemen,t near Montparnasse where she and Demy set up the production and distribution company CinéTamaris. The buildings around a courtyard first served as a studio for her photographic activities - it was there she took portraits of such luminaries as Delphine Seyrig, Gérard Philippe and Sami Frey.

“I come from the generation who were taught never to throw things out. I like the idea of hanging on to things and repairing items rather than discarding them. It’s not a question of money, more to do with guarding resources and not being wasteful. My children [besides Mathieu there is daughter Rosalie, a costume designer] laugh at me when I sit darning a pair of socks,” she says.

She put such concerns into a hit documentary, The Gleaners And I (Les Glaneurs Et La Glaneuse) which marked a career revival for her in her seventies. It received prizes and acclaim at festivals the world over and has been seen in cities, towns and villages the length and breadth of France.

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