My eyes have been attracted to the word "Beach" ever since the days when I'd put my finger to the page and have to sound it out. Because of this, the wonderful film The Beaches Of Agnes (Les Plages d'Agnes) wound up in my Netflix queue, and I just watched it. I was so charmed and moved by it, I just wanted to get up and create something magical immediately after it was over.
Agnes Varda is often called the "Grandmother of the French New Wave" in cinematic discussions. She was the partner and muse of Jacques Demy (The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg), and a was/is a force in her own right as a film director, photographer, installation artist and magnificent character.
You need to be in a pretty reflective, high-arty mood, preferably by yourself, to really soak up the meanings and poetry of this whimsical, honest, creative, gracious memoir of a film, as narrated onscreen (in French sub-titles, so you need to be in the mood for that too. Matt.) by Mme. Varda herself.
From the opening scenes with assistants placing mirrors all over a Belgian beach for Varda to literally reflect into, on through to the belly of a Whale scene (I don't want to wreck it for you), to the achingly exquisite scene of little boys who had appeared in a Varda film decades earlier (she is 80 while telling you her story in 2008), all grown up into graying men, riding a bike-mounted screen playing their film through the streets of the same town it was shot in. Magic.
I kept thinking how much my late Cinema Arts professor back in college (Go Auggies!), John Mitchell, would have adored this film. He may have even made a house out of the film strips and sat inside it to watch the movement, as Varda does at one point, literally living within cinema.
At one point in the lovingly told look back, Varda is standing on a pier that I felt immediately in my own heart. Then she's on the beach that I also felt attached to, even in close-up. Soon enough, it said "Venice" in the dialogue. I knew it all along. When you watch it and recognize the wide swath of sand we all know and treasure, and the absolute love felt while Agnes is there with her friends, it makes the stories and feelings expressed by Varda all the more personal and identifiable.
I loved every single frame of this gift of a film, given back from a life well lived. It is an inspiration in every way; creatively - certainly, but also as a reminder to cherish those people and moments in our lives WHILE you are living them. As Varda says to close her wonderful tale, "Je suis vivant, et je me souviens"...
I am alive, and I remember.