Berlin Flashback: In 1965, Agnes Varda Accepted the Grand Jury Prize

Agnes Varda-Getty-P -2019

Her latest film, 'Varda par Agnes,' has its world premiere at this year's Berlinale, arriving a full 54 years after she received one of the fest's top honors for 1965's 'Le Bonheur.'

While she shot to a new level of notoriety with a life-sized cardboard cutout of herself sent in her place to the 2018 Oscar Nominees Luncheon (she was co-nominated for the documentary Faces Places), 90-year-old director Agnes Varda is certainly no stranger to the spotlight, nor to the Berlin International Film Festival.

Her latest film, Varda par Agnes, has its world premiere at this year’s Berlinale. It arrives a full 54 years after Varda received the fest’s Grand Jury Prize for 1965’s Le Bonheur (“Happiness”), a French New Wave drama about a perfectly content carpenter who — because men will be men — has an extramarital affair with a young woman he meets on a business trip. The film was characterized by its saturated, sun-drenched colors and impressionistic mise-en-scene. 

The Belgium-born Varda got her start as a photographer and art historian, then became one of the leading voices of the French New Wave — more specifically tied to the Left Bank Cinema stream, which was more artsy and experimental than the Cahiers du Cinema movement.

She married Jacques Demy in 1962; Demy, who directed 1964’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, was openly bisexual and died in 1990 from complications of AIDS. Varda responded with 1991’s Jacquot de Nantes, a film tribute to her husband as an artist.

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Feb. 7 daily issue at the Berlin Film Festival.