Agnès Varda, French New Wave Director

Patates (c)2000 Agnes Varda, From The Gleaners

Patates (c)2000 Agnes Varda, From The Gleaners

The first film I saw directed by Agnes Varda was The Gleaners and I, a documentary released in 2000. Varda talked to a variety of people who gleaned produce, junk, and materials to make a living or because they collect or hoard. I really liked the cinematography, the little snippets of Varda’s quirky life, and the way she connects with gleaners of kinds without judgment.

La Pointe Courte (C) Agnes Varda

La Pointe Courte (c) Agnes Varda

Ms. Varda started her career as a photographer and her visual sensibility is an important part of her films. La Pointe Courte was Varda’s first feature film, produced in1955. Philippe Noiret and Silvia Monfort star as a young married couple struggling in their relationship in the small town of La  Pointe Courte. It’s typically French in that there are no easy answers to life’s large problems. The cinematography is beautiful.

Currently she’s a Professor of Film and Documentaries at the European Graduate School (EGS).  Her father was Greek and her mother was French. She studied at the École du Louvre and the École des Beaux-Arts. She then went on to work at the Théâtre National Populaire in Paris as a photographer.

Cléo de 5 à 7 (c) CINE-TAMARIS

Cléo de 5 à 7 (c) CINE-TAMARIS

One of her best known works is Cléo From 5 to 7, a black and white film released in 1962. Filmed in real time, Cléo wanders through Paris while waiting for the results of a medical test she believes will indicate she has cancer. We overhear conversations in cafes, and random bits of everyday life while Cléo waits.

The Beaches of Agnes

The Beaches of Agnes

Her most recent film was The Beaches of Agnes, an autobiography, a reflection on turning 80, and a look back on her life and art. She includes a poignant look at her late husband, Jacques Demy, a filmmaker as well. (The Umbrellas de Cherbourg) See this New Yorker snippet review of the DVD.

Sue Agnes

Ms. Varda is barely visible behind the gray haired gentleman. I’m giddy.

On a recent trip to Paris, my sweetie and I went to a community yard sale/junk sale (vides-grenier). I sat down at a cafe and Todd wandered along the various stalls. He was rummaging though some CDs at Cine-Tamaris when he looked up and saw Agnes Varda! He hoofed it back to the cafe to get me and we hustled back to see if she was still there. I said hello and told her how much I love her films. It was the highlight of our trip.

Sources
The Criterion Collection has a number of Varda’s films available.

European School of Graduate Studies – biographical information

Art on Screen: A Conversation with Agnes Varda

Cine Tamaris is Varda’s company, which has descriptions of all her films.

Roger Ebert’s review of Cleo From 5 To 7

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Happy Birthday, Colette!

“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” –New York World-Telegram and Sun (1961)

Colette.  Image from NYPL Digital Image Collection

Colette. Image from NYPL Digital Image Collection

I completely agree with Colette- if we’re going to do something foolish, relish the opportunity. Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was born on January 28, 1873 in the Burgundy area of France. Her life was an adventure of writing more than fifty novels, marrying three men, having numerous love affairs with men and women, enjoying the company of her cats, working as a chorusgirl, and enjoying life. She was the first woman to be given a state funeral in France. I became a fan of hers recently when I read Chéri and its sequel, The End of Chéri. The dialog is colorful and down-to-earth, and explores social conventions by turning them upside down. A woman of a certain takes a lover half her age. The story has the male character, Chéri, in the role we usually think of a female character with feminine needs and desires. She examines gender roles with humor and irony and her writing is wonderful.

Colette writer

Colette and Paul Géraldy, French writers, at a rehearsal of “Duo”. Paris, théâtre Saint-Georges, 1938. Image from Parisenimages © Boris Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet

Colette and Missy (Mathilde de Morny, Marchioness of Belbeuf), rue de Villejust. Paris, March 1910. © Maurice-Louis Branger / Roger-Viollet.

Colette and Missy (Mathilde de Morny, Marchioness of Belbeuf), rue de Villejust. Paris, March 1910. © Maurice-Louis Branger / Roger-Viollet.

Colette and husband

Colette with her husband Maurice Goudeket. Paris, about 1950.© Studio Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet. Photo from Parisenimages

Colette1

Colette © Studio Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet. Photo from Parisenimages

To celebrate Colette’s birthday, I started The Tender Shoot, one of her novels, and a biography, Secrets of the Flesh, by Judith Thurman. For a short biography, see the European Graduate School’s entry.

Kiki, Queen of Paris

“We laughed, my God how we laughed.” – Kiki de Montparnasse

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Kiki de Montparnasse, “Girl of Music-hall”. Paris, about 1937-1939.© Gaston Paris / Roger-Viollet. Photo from Parisiene de Photographie

I just finished reading Kiki’s Memoirs, a fun and sometimes poignant autobiography by Kiki de Montparnasse, born Alice Prin. She writes about her life with the artists of the 1920s Paris including May Ray, Calder, Kisling, and Foujita. She was an audacious, fun-loving woman, an artist’s muse, a showgirl, an actress, and an artist. Her memoir touches on her horrible childhood but focuses on the bohemian life in Montparnasse beginning in the 1920s. She writes about her love affairs, the famous cafes in Paris, the Surrealists, her trip to New York, the trials of the artists trying to eat and keep a roof over their heads, and many other adventures. Her writing style is a bit childlike – perhaps since she was taken out of school at a young age to work she never had the chance to develop a more mature voice. But what I really like is exuberant writing style – she really enjoyed her adventures and relished her life. Alas, Kiki died when she was 51 but I like to think she fit a lot of life in her 51 years.

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Noire et blanche (variante). Kiki torse nu de face portant un masque africain contre son visage. Man Ray, 1926. © MAN RAY TRUST / ADAGP. Paris, 2011 / Telimage.

Kiki

Kiki, by André Kertész, 1927. Donation André Kertész, Ministère de la culture (Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine), diffusion RMN


Her memoirs were banned in the U.S. when they were first published because of her descriptions of her sexual exploits. (I found them very tame, actually.) Billy Kluver and Julie Martin published a new edition in 1997 with lots of photographs by Man Ray and other artists of the time, as well as Kiki’s own art. If you enjoy reading about Paris in the 1920s or about strong, audacious women, I recommend this book. The New York Times reviewed it here.

Last year Jose-Louis Bocquet and Catel Muller published a graphic novel about Kiki titled Kiki’s Montparnasse. I think it’s a nice companion to Ms. Prin’s autobiography; it has more details about her life after the heydays of Montparnasse.

Book cover 2 Book cover

Flea Markets in Paris

Pretty vintage petit point lipstick case, comb, and compact I found at Vanves.

Pretty vintage petit point lipstick case, comb, and compact I found at Vanves flea market earlier this year. Probably from the late 1950s.

A trip to Paris doesn’t feel complete till I stop by at least one flea market (marché aux puces). It’s a fun combination of other people’s interesting (or not) stuff, watching Parisian locals socialize with one another, and the thrill of finding something beautiful, interesting, or bizarre. Below are photographs of French flea markets from different eras.

Marché à la ferraille [tableaux, cadres et vieux papiers] : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol], 1910.

Marché à la ferraille [tableaux, cadres et vieux papiers] : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol], 1910.

Marche de puces, Marcel Bovis.

Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen, Marcel Bovis, 1962. Donation Marcel Bovis, Ministère de la culture (Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine) Diffusion RMN

Marche au puces, François Kollar, 1932.

Marche au puces, François Kollar, 1932. Donation François Kollar Ministère de la culture (Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine) diffusion RMN.

Un coin du Marché aux Puces, le Marché Biron, Noël Le Boyer, 1940.

Un coin du Marché aux Puces, le Marché Biron, Noël Le Boyer, 1940. Ministère de la culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, diffusion RMN.

L'incorrigible ; [Sculpture au marché aux puces], 1930, André Kertész

L’incorrigible ; [Sculpture au marché aux puces], 1930, André Kertész. Donation André Kertész, Ministère de la culture (Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine), diffusion RMN.

Marché aux puces, deux femmes devant le stand d’un brocanteur, Noël Le Boyer,1940. Photo from Ministère de la culture (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine.

La Foire aux Puces de la Porte de Clignancourt : [photographie de presse] / Agence Meurisse, 1923. Photo from Bibliothèque nationale de France.

La Foire aux Puces de la Porte de Clignancourt : [photographie de presse] / Agence Meurisse, 1923. Photo from Bibliothèque nationale de France.

You might also like:

Le Marché aux Puces de Vanves
Flea market fun in Paris

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse-Lautrec and Lucién Metivet drinking absinthe c.1885 Photograph © Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi-Tarn, France

Toulouse-Lautrec and Lucién Metivet drinking absinthe c.1885. Photograph© Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi-Tarn, France

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was born on November 24, 1864 in Albi, France. I like his paintings but really knew nothing about the artist until I started research for this post. Cora Michael of the Metropolitan Museum of Art describes him as “an aristocratic, alcoholic dwarf known for his louche lifestyle.” He painted and document the nightlife of late 19th century Paris, particularly Montmartre’s seedy side. The film Moulin Rouge gives a fictionalized view of what the times were like when Toulouse-Lautrec lived and painted; you might recall the Toulouse-Lautrec character played by John Leguizamo in the film.

Cheval Blanc

Cheval Blanc Gazelle, 1881. ©Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, gift of Comtesse Adèle de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Toulouse-Lautrec was fond of painting horses. This is one of his early works painted in 1891.

Jane Avril, 1899. The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison Collection.

Jane Avril, 1899. ©The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison Collection.

One of my favorite posters is Jane Avril – I have a small copy hanging in my office.

At The Moulin Rouge

At The Moulin Rouge, circa 1892. ©Art Institute of Chicago.

Au Salon

Au Salon de la Rue Des Moulins, 1894.

Yvette Guibert

Yvette Guilbert Taking a Curtain Call, 1894. ©Musee Toulouse Lautrec

Divon Japonais

Divon Japonais, circa 1892. ©Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Clifford A. Furst.

Sadly, Toulouse-Lautrec’s alcoholism lead to his quick decline; he died in 1901 at 36 of complications from alcoholism and syphilis.

Additional Resources
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
National Gallery of Art’s Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre exhibit
Musee Toulouse-Lautrec
What Ailed Toulouse-Lautrec? Scientists Zero In on a Key Gene. New York Times article that reviews what disease Toulouse-Lautrec may have had that caused his dwarfism.

Le Marché aux Puces de Vanves

I’m fascinated by flea markets in Europe. I prefer the traditional ones where you might find a mix of bric-a-brac, paintings, vintage jewelry, silverware, old books, pieces of lace, old pots and pans, and records. I don’t like the noisy ones with plastic battery-operated junk – I can see that kind of flea market any weekend here in the U.S.

One reason I find used goods fascinating is the history that goes along with an item. I like to daydream about who owned it originally and how the item was used. Did that set of silverware belong to a just married couple before the war? Who is that pretty girl in the painting? When were those dolls made?

The book Flea Markets in Europe describes why some people buy second-hand goods at flea market – “the desire to be different, to possess those articles which are no longer made, aand which few people still have…which do not show the marks of mass production and which outlive both fashion and their owners.” I think many of the visitor to the Vanves flea market fall into this category.

The people watching is great at le marché aux puces. The sellers know each other and banter about and watch each other’s stalls if they have to go get lunch. Many of them are very knowledgeable about what they’re selling though there is a subgroup of slightly rough-hewn types that descend straight from the rag and bone pickers of old.  At Vanves, many of the customers are local Parisians as well as tourists from all over the world exploring the wares.

Vanves

Mysterious Beauty. ©2013 Todd Mecklem

Dolls. ©2013 Todd Mecklem

Dolls. ©2013 Todd Mecklem

Dalida and Spools. ©2013 Todd Mecklem

Dalida and Spools. ©2013 Todd Mecklem

Pretty Girl and Junk. ©2013 Todd Mecklem

Pretty Girl and Junk. ©2013 Todd Mecklem

Sue charm bracelet

Trying on a charm bracelet at the Vanves flea market. ©2013 Todd Mecklem


French man at flea market.  ©2012 Todd Mecklem

French man at flea market. ©2012 Todd Mecklem

Of course one must eat after a morning of looking at interesting objects. A small cheese sandwich and a coffee at a local cafe rounded out this expedition.

Lunch at Cafe Didot

Lunch at Cafe Didot

Do you buy second-hand items or do you find used stuff gross? What’s your favorite flea market?