Monday, September 6, 2010
how i celebrated the end of summer
At the suggestion of my friend John Hayes, of Robert Frost's Banjo fame, I added several of pioneer French filmmaker Agnes Varda's films to my Netflix queue. I watched the first, La Pointe Courte, 1954, this weekend and was completely mesmerized. As part of The Criterion Collection, it has been lusciously remastered. The film is a graceful, yet intense, look at a troubled marital relationship, set in a Mediterranean fishing village.
Gorgeously filmed, it plays almost like a documentary, showing a very real slice of culture, and left me feeling as if I had just browsed a wonderful photographic exhibit. In my favorite breathtaking scene, the couple crawl into the shadowy hull of an abandoned boat and share an intimate conversation. In the opening sequence, the camera took me down a lazy walkway in the small village, peering in open windows at families gathered at dinner tables, with hanging laundry scattered among stray cats.
It immediately brought to mind a book I read to my children, in the early 90s, by the wonderful illustrator, Louise Brierley, called The Fisherwoman. The story is about Maud, the fisherwoman, who has worked hard to earn her living from the sea. One evening, when she hauls in her net, she finds an old pink vase among the flapping silver mackerel. The vase, she discovers, has magical properties, but in the end all is not as she hopes. Brierley's character, Maud, with round face and lush full features, looks amazingly like Varda's female character, Elle. And as synchonicity would have it, both Varda's film and Brierly's story are loosely based on feminist themes, exuding beauty, life and power.
Since I couldn't spend the holiday weekend in the Mediterranean, this movie, and the book, which I had to dig out and re-read, certainly hit the spot, celebrating the last days of summer. I'm also looking forward to watching the next few Varda films in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.