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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This sounds like a perfect way to celebrate the end of summer!

  3. Although I haven't watched that movie, I do know that is a nice book.

  4. You always have the most interesting suggestions for films and books. I haven't heard of the book but will look it up, and I do adore Varda's films. I still remember exactly where I was and who I was when I saw Sandrine Bonnaire in Vagabonde --

  5. I love how "finding" this movie (via a friend's suggestion)sent you searching for, and getting re-aquainted with, a book from long ago.

    Re-connecting with old friends instead of saying good-bye...I can't think of a better way to end the summer. :)


  6. Beautiful film, Willow--thanks for giving Varda's work more exposure. The photographic quality is really a good observation--Varda's background prior to becoming a filmmaker was as an art photographer.

  7. I learn of something new every time I come here. Thank you.

  8. These sound like some good reading and viewing. Hope your Labor Day was non-laborious!

  9. I'll have to check into that film. Thanks


  10. You would never catch this gal fishing for nothin', except maybe compliments. ;-)

    I'll clean them and cook them, but I refuse to catch them or get in any boat that doesn't have stewards!

  11. Actually, I rather like fishing. It has a relaxing effect on me, with the lovely water and all, with a bit of treasure hunt thrown in, like panning for gold.

  12. I've always loved the end of summer as it means the start of my favorite season, Autumn. I like to relax and watch a good film or read an intriguing mystery in the evening as the Autumn winds howl and the cool crisp air can be felt pushing its way under the doors and through the slightly cracked windows.
    Your description of La Pointe Courte sounds fantastic. . .something I must see.

    Always a pleasure to drop in . . .

  13. Agnes is still making films. Her latest 'The Beaches of Agnes' won great acclaim. I think she's actually Belgian.

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  15. How I love your writing. i went back and read about Sean..and Joan Plowright. Wonderful. I saw hummingbirds in San Francisco. I was told they would come and had to wait several days. By the time they showed up I was so exicited. The are so little. Love your blog. I'll be back for more.

  16. Dear Willow, What a fascinating posting. The film, which sounds beautiful, is one that I do not know but one which, from your very evocative description, I shall look out for.

  17. Looks as though 'The Fisherwoman' will be going on the granddaughter's book-list.

  18. I'll have to add this one to my queue as well. I'm a big fan of Agnes Varda, just from the few films of hers I've seen so far (I think The Gleaners is fascinating).

  19. I can't believe I've reached the limit of films I can add to my Netflix queue ( 500 ). In the last week, I've watched ten "play it now" films which weren't even on my list. Good grief.

  20. My best friend is sailing the warm waters of the Dalmatian coast at the moment. Your lovely post reminded me of his last email describing the small fishing villages along the way, the brightly painted boats & fishermen sitting on the rocks in the sun repairing their nets. Big sigh of envy from moi!
    Millie ^_^

  21. Willow,
    A perfect way to welcome in Autumn!
    The chops were scrumptious!

  22. I feel like I've stepped into another world when I visit here.
    Elegant. Always.

  23. Oh, The Fisherwoman sounds lke a good escape read. Thanks!

  24. A very interesting way to end the summer; it sounds like a memorable book.

    CJ xx

  25. you give me the best ideas for movies! just ordered it from net flix, thanks girl!

  26. Looks like I've got another movie to put in my queue (even though that last one scared the snot out of me). I haven't heard of the book, not sure how I could have missed that when my daughter was little, looks wonderful.

  27. Everton T, with your photography background, you'll love this one.

  28. Thanks for passing on John's recommendation, I must look it out.

  29. Thank you for this post! May you find summer's ending happy as we fade into Autumn. Or perhaps "light" might be better?

  30. Summer and Fall are still having
    a wrestling contest, like those
    beer-soaked arm wrestling sessions
    down in Key West when Ernest
    Hemingway still had strong arms,
    and though Fall has a hammerlock
    on Summer, raining on his parade,
    one cannot, here in the South Sound,
    count Summer out yet. September might
    blossom back into Indian Summer.
    There might be a few halcyon warm
    days left before Mr. October swings
    his bat. But it is raining in my face
    and on my deck and my silver SUV
    today, and Tess and the lawn are

    So many celluloid treasures out
    there yet to discover. You make
    very appetizing. Yes, as has
    been noted heretofore, you
    have spent a luscious Labor Day,
    and thanks for sharing. Visiting
    Willow Manor is an education
    I say.

  31. Beauty, life and power and the sea and love and magical powers...sounds like the perfect way to end summer and to welcome autumn.

  32. Sounds like a pleasant way to celebrate the end of Summer if one can't go to the Mediterranean!

  33. Willow,
    have I ever mentioned how much I miss Netflix?
    None here, not even a decent rental store around the corner. Apparently, people here buy the DVD rather than renting. Too bad for me!

    I do enjoy reading about your movie adventures and knowing that your blog is out there, with the finest references to movies I'd love to see open 24 hours, 7 days a week, is a really comforting. Thank you!

  34. Your comment on my Magpie does not surprise me. I can just see you flipping that retainer in and out. You little devil you. I always enjoy your movie reviews. Have fallen in love with BBC productions and Just finished Cranford and the series with the factory owner Mr. Thornton, can't remember the name.They don't make them like they used to for sure.

  35. It sounds like a perfect way to spend the weekend....bkm

  36. Great movie, great book..who could ask for more?..will catch up with the movie very soon..I watched, "A Prophet" , French, 2009 Oscar Nominee, brutal, amazing acting..Netflix addict!

  37. Ah, are too much! I saw this film last Summer, when I was deeply depressed over splitting with my Ex... and I was completely entranced with it...

    I have not read "The Fisherwoman" - but will add it.
    (I read "Children's Books too..).

    Off to "Aida" final dress....


    ♥ Robin ♥

  38. The Fisherwoman looks like a great book. I think I will get it and share it with my granddaughter.

  39. I can always count on Willow for a good movie heads up, so thanks again for introducing me to one I haven't seen. I hate that I'm heading out on the road today,but I'm sending this to Joe so he'll know to add this to our netflix queue for a future evening. It really sounds like a movie I'd like.

  40. What a wonderful way to end the summer, Willow. I've never watched any of Varda's work, but "La Pointe Courte" sounds marvellous. "The Fisherwoman" too sounds charming. It's brilliant, isn't it, these themes and styles and stories that run throughout all of the world's art and culture. Wishing you all the best :)

  41. oh...that's it...i have got to make dilly bread THIS WEEK.....sounds so good...

    sounds so FALL :-)

    i am out the door but will be back this afternoon to read your post !


  42. Oy... I've never even heard of Agnes Varda. I feel so ashamed. Seriously.

    Gonna rectify this one.

  43. I would look for Webber but it took me a month of Sundays to remember his first name was Bill.

    Fishing? Used to do it all the time. From the middle of the Scioto to the middle of Stillwater. I fished them all and then decided to take the barb off the hooks. The fish can get off without tearing up their mouth.

    Then I thought, why am I punishing these poor fish? I mean they mean me no harm and none will eat me so I don't need to eat them.

    I got a lot of good rods and reels in the top of my shop mouldering away.

  44. I adore Agnes Varda. I tripped over her film The Beaches of Agnes by accident. Then I ordered La Pointe Courte and several others but now I am thinking I didnt receive the others. However, I think on the Beaches DVD there were several shorts of hers which I also adored. She is quite original. The book I have never heard of, it sounds great. Thanks Willow!

  45. I haven't watched a Varda film since student days, willow, but now, thanks to your post, I'm going to have to spend yet more money on Amazon!

  46. Sounds like a sweet end to a lovely summer!

    PS: Speaking of banjos, we had one (live!) going on in our living room tonight. You never heard so sweet a sound, mellow plucking with a side of late summer, front porches, warm gingham. The notes sang.

  47. Varda is definitely the way to go!

  48. this movie sounds fabulous - i plan to add it to my netflix queue as well - thanks for the review! xo

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― O. Henry (and me)