Inspiration and good mood: THAT’S CINEMA! | Agnès Varda | TEDxVeniceBeach

Inspiration and good mood: THAT’S CINEMA! | Agnès Varda | TEDxVeniceBeach

Hello. Inspiration is my subject. Not the physical action of breathing and — not — the charming romantic muses
coming to whisper in the ear of a poet. No. I’m speaking about a strong word, “inspiration,” which goes with “creation” and “sharing.” Those are the words who have been in the middle of my working life. Look — look at that box. It’s full of DVDs
of all my films and other things 60 years of creation. Not even 4 pounds.It’s like nothing. It’s like nothing. This — you can have it.So… it could be the end I could be finished. I could be like, “I’m going to retire.” but — it’s not. I felt, “I should not retire.” So what keeps me on? It’s motivation; inspiration; desire of creating. Well, it hasn’t stopped. So… we don’t know exactly. But what I know is that desire is the essence of life. Inspiration is the essence of creating. Of creation. So how does it come? You know…
It can be vague things invading the brain It could be some thoughts. And
sometimes it’s just — an emergency. I have to tell you a story. This is in 1967. I’m in San Francisco. There is a film festival and Tom Luddy said to me, “There is a man named Varda. He is a painter in Sausalito — we should go and meet him.” Well, we went. and he was a man…Tom introduced me to that man beautiful hippie-type long hair, big pants, loving, loving look and he said he was a real cousin of my father, so we
were family. And there was love at the first sight –
to simplify it We were so happy to meet
and I was impressed. And I thought, “Well, I have to capture that! I
should make a film right away.” This is Wednesday. And I know I have
to leave on Monday. I call a distributor called Greensfelder, I say, “Look, I need a 35-millimeter camera, film stock.” And brought me to David Myers
— known DP — and we started to shoot on Friday. We shot, you know, Yanco [Varda] — his
paintings, the house what was around, and on Saturday he invited friends –everybody
spoke about what he was doing and on Sunday he invited young people and some
animals to go in a little boat and he went to sail on the Bay. And then I did
some white sound — in English and in French So the thing is that, when I filmed, I thought already — the kind of editing I wanted to do Because I knew I wanted to tell the meeting But not just tell the meeting I should express the excitement,
the surprise, the joy that happened so I did what I did
and I succeeded to do a baroque editing and you will see that.It is true that I loved that
meeting and Yanko became an inspiration for me like Picasso. I never met Picasso
but I was so impressed by the way he could reinvent his own art every five years.
Changing, inventing. And other artists also like Calder — I loved Calder. Those artists inspire us. We need, you know — I think art feeds us. That’s the way I feel. but sometimes it’s more simple things that inspired me it’s more simple things that inspired me
— like everyday life. You know, this is in 2000. It was the end of a farmer’s market.
And the vendor — the farmer were putting their boxes and baskets back in the truck. and the city cleaners with their, you know,
their plastic, green brooms, were waiting. And I could see people coming. Young and old people bending their bodies to get something on
the floor. and what was left, you know? Some salad
some boxes of eggs, some eggs were broken, so the vendor left the box — fruits not
very in good shape — different things. And I was very impressed. A sentence came in my
mind right away, it said “They will eat what we throw away.” And it became…
I started to think, “I should do something about that.” I should find out who is gleaning where, what can be gleaned in the fields, in the cities. In the
cities, mostly the garbage cans. and in the field: corn, you know, apples
and potatoes. So that’s how I started the documentary called
“Les glaneurs et la glaneuse” In English: The Gleaners and I I was impressed by the beauty of these odd potatoes The heart-shaped potatoes became a very important feeling that, you know, that’s the way you look at things that make them beautiful And I also thought of another more typical way of discussing beauty you know, the classical the beautiful face of a beautiful woman. This is Corinne Marchand who acted as Cléo in
my film “Cléo from 5 to 7.” This is in 1961. And the time was very strange because in
the late 50s and the late 60s There were difficult things. There was the Algerian War and there was a very general feeling of being afraid of cancer — like a fear for
everybody. And I thought cancer should be a subject. And I thought, I should tell
the story of a woman expecting a medical result. She’s afraid to have cancer. She’s afraid to die. and I wrote the story of the ninety minutes of her
expecting those results. I was near her, trying to understand her feeling, trying to go, really go with her. but there was something which was more
complicated for me. I had a secret inspiration. And sometimes it’s a painting.
and I’ve been very inspired by a painting from Hans Baldung Grien This is 1500. And he used to do these beautiful women
with skeletons. This one pulls her hair while speaking to her here. And it was, for me, the carnal beauty and the dryness of the skeleton. Flesh and bones. and that
image was in me — like a metaphor of the story of Cléo Sometimes I had the postcard with me. Put it on the wall where we were shooting. you know the pressure on Cléo. the pressure of death is strong. and I wanted to understand
what she felt and understand how she will be as a
beautiful singer attacked even
by the world of the song.But you see even in a fiction film I love to have part of documentary. That was true. That’s the way that man was
doing and other people in the street… because I’m very interested in real
people. That’s why I do documentaries, among other things You know, it’s not the power of truth, but the truth is very interesting. It’s very … it’s attaching …it’s difficult, you know. And most of the time I tried to grab what life
would inspire — a documentary. One day I was pushed into a very sudden experience. It happened because the wonderful director for Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Jacques Demy, who also was my husband, was sick. Very sick. And he was writing his memories the memories of
his childhood and he would show me the pages every other day and he said, “I would
like to do the film, but I don’t have the strength to do it. Would you like to do it? So I said I will do a film from his memories. So I felt I entered into his head to remember I’ve shared the same time of the war. I’ve shared the
bombing I know, you know, where we’re trying to play as children but I was not
interested in my memories but his memories during the war So when I did the film, I understood I had two concerns One was to be near him — as near as possible In the cinema language, I would have to do close up — almost macro filming — and I
wanted to get that the camera would be near him get the substance, get the texture
of his hair, texture of his skin the texture of his eye and on the other hand — that was a part of the fiction Was it fiction about his childhood? And how during this
difficult time, he was a young boy who had a very early vocation. And how —
alone in his attic — he started to make animated films. His wish was to learn
about cinema. He wished to go into film school But he was doing his own work
alone. There is a little excerpt
on his attic:You know, I was impressed by that early vocation and Jacques became a wonderful director but at the end of our shooting, he passed
away. It has been a difficult time and my life has been fulfilled with love, family, a lot of work and sometimes bitches also. It’s difficult to say that I’ve felt that
have done a lot of work and I became known but in the margin. I have been always
interested in people in the margin and some of my documentaries are related
to what I will I say… — sqatters, gleaners, poor people — anonymous, courageous, righteous, gentile people saving Jewish people during the war — and we owe them love. You know, so I took some time to do these
documentaries about those people that I want to share; I want to make people
share And then I feel sometimes I am a go-between the
people I have filmed and the audiences because sharing is more interesting than
anything. And I was lucky to meet recently J.R. —
an artist and a photographer and we decided together to do the same thing we
like — you know, empathy for people. Trying to catch the best of them. Listening to them and making big images of them on the wall And all these people were
people out of power. And we never spoke politics, we want to do person-to-person. Share what could be understood when we speak candidly to people. So we did that film It’s called Faces Places; en français: Visages Villages And the way we did it was that these basic, big images and we did it
because we were traveling and we had been so, so friendly at first sight We travelled in his magical truck. and maybe it’s around here. It’s a truck in which
there is a lab so you enter to have a little photo you go out, you get a poster
and if you want to paste it, you do it. So we went there and during the the road
movie time, we learn to know each other better, discover each other just 50 years of difference of age, but we got along so well that age was not a problem for knowing or understanding. And I just thought my age inspired him. It was interesting — the fact that I look not very well,
my eyes are weak, I cannot go up the stairs And he started to
take pictures of me — photos— of pieces of me. I didn’t know what he wanted to do
with it but I allowed him to do so So there is an excerpt and you will see what
he did with my pieces of body but meanwhile, you see, I was expressing, explaining, to workers in a factory what was our project; what was the Utopia
of our project? So there is that scenePower of imagination. Freedom in creation.
That’s what is art.

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  1. Agnes was one of the last people to see Jim Morrison alive in Paris. She also saw his dead body at his Paris apartment.

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