4 by Agnès Varda

 

La Pointe-courte (1956)      Cléo de 5 à 7 (1961)


Le Bonheur (1965)       Sans toit ni loi aka Vagabond (1985)

 

Agnès Varda used the skills she honed early in her career as a photographer to create some of the most nuanced, thought-provoking films of the past fifty years. She is widely believed to have presaged the French new wave with her first film, La Pointe Courte, long before creating one of the movement's benchmarks, Cléo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7). Later, with Le bonheur and Vagabond (Sans toi ni loi), Varda further shook up art-house audiences, challenging bourgeois codes with her inscrutable characters and offering effortlessly beautiful compositions and editing. Now working largely as a documentarian, Varda remains one of the essential cinematic poets of our time and a true visionary.

 


Titles

 

 


 

La Pointe Courte
Agnès Varda, 1956. The great Agnes Varda's film career began with this graceful, penetrating study of a marriage on the rocks, set against the backdrop of a small Mediterranean fishing village. Both a stylized depiction of the complicated relationship between a married couple (played by Silvia Monfort and Philippe Noiret) and a documentary-like look at the daily struggles of the locals, Varda's discursive, gorgeously filmed debut was radical enough to later be considered one of the progenitors of the coming French new wave.

 

Cléo from 5 to 7
Agnès Varda, 1962. Agnès Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer (Corinne Marchand) set adrift in the city as she awaits test results of a biopsy. A chronicle of the minutes of one woman’s life, Cléo from 5 to 7 is a spirited mix of vivid vérité and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.

 

Le bonheur
Agnès Varda, 1965. Though married to the good-natured, beautiful Thérèse (Claire Drouot), young husband and father François (Jean-Claude Drouot) finds himself falling unquestioningly into an affair with an attractive postal worker. One of Agnès Varda's most provocative films, Le bonheur examines, with a deceptively cheery palette and the spirited strains of Mozart, the ideas of fidelity and happiness in a modern, self-centered world.

Vagabond
Agnès Varda, 1985. Sandrine Bonnaire won the Best Actress César for her portrayal of the defiant young drifter Mona, found frozen to death in a ditch at the beginning of Vagabond. Agnès Varda pieces together Mona’s story through flashbacks told by those who encountered her (played by a largely nonprofessional cast), producing a splintered portrait of an enigmatic woman. With its sparse, poetic imagery, Vagabond (Sans toit ni loi) is a stunner, and won Varda the top prize at the Venice Film Festival.

 

Posters

Theatrical Releases: 1956 - 1985

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Criterion Collection (4-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Criterion Collection Spine # 418 - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: Respectively - 1:20:30, 1:29:45, 1:20:00 and 1:45:44
Bitrate:

La Pointe Courte

Bitrate:

Cleo From 5 to 7

Bitrate:

La Bonheur

Bitrate:

Vagabond

Audio French (original mono)
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33 + 1.66 

Edition Details:

Extras on La Pointe-courte:
New video interview with director Agnès Varda (15:42)
• Excerpts from a 1964 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps, in which Varda discusses her early career (8:49)

Extras on Cléo de 5 à 7:
Remembrances (2005), a documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with Varda and actors Corinne Marchand and Antoine Bourseiller (35:56)
• Gallery of paintings by Hans Baldung Grien, whose work inspired the character of Cléo
• Excerpt from a 1993 French television program featuring Madonna and Varda talking about the film (2:24)
Cléo's Real Path Through Paris (2005), a short film retracing, on a motorcycle, Cléo's steps through Paris (9:16)
Les fiancés du pont Macdonald (1961), a short film directed by Varda, featuring some of her new wave colleagues, with Varda explaining why the film was featured in Cléo (4:54)
L’opéra Mouffe (1958), an early short by Varda, with a score by Georges Delerue (16:04)
• Theatrical trailer (2:03)

Extras on Le Bonheur:

• Interview with Varda from 1998 about Le bonheur (3:00)

The Two Women of "Le bonheur" (2006), a short piece featuring actors Claire Drouot and Marie-France Boyer (6:10)
Thoughts on "Le bonheur" (2006), a discussion between four scholars and intellectuals discussing the concept of happiness and its relation to the film (15:01)
• Two short pieces by Varda investigating people's idea of happiness (5:49 + 1:35)
Jean-Claude Drouot Returns (2006), a featurette in which the actor revisits the film's setting forty years later (10:24)
• Segment from the 1964 television program Démons et merveilles du cinéma, featuring footage of Varda shooting Le bonheur (4:09)
Du Côté de la côte (1958), a short film by Varda exploring the tourist destination of the Côte d'Azur (25:55)
• Theatrical trailer (2:19)

Extras on Vagabond:
Remembrances (2003), a documentary on the making of the film, including interviews with Sandrine Bonnaire and other cast members (40:32)
The Story of an Old Lady (2003), a short piece in which Varda revisits actress Marthe Jarnias, who plays the old aunt in the film (3:47)
Music and Dolly Shots, (2003), a conversation between Varda and composer Joanna Bruzdowicz (12:16)
• A 1986 radio interview with Varda and writer Nathalie Sarraute, who inspired the film (9:18)
• Theatrical trailer (2:26)
 

• a 60 page liner notes book with essays, photos and cast credits


DVD Release Date: January 22nd, 2008

4 Slip Cases inside a cardboard box
Chapters (respectively): 18, 21, 19, 24

 

Comments:

NOTE: The 4 main features of this boxset are housed in individual Slip cases (see image above) they are not sold separately at this time. These particular new Criterion editions can only be obtained in the 4 By Agnès Varda package at present.

All four DVDs are dual-layered and progressive. They each have substantial supplements which I will touch upon below (I'm not going to cover all of them - too many!). Each are coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. The transfers are in their original aspect ratios. The audio for all is original mono French and there are optional English subtitles. La Pointe-courte is pictureboxed transferred (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). All 4 releases come with new restored high-definition digital transfers, supervised and approved by director Agnès Varda.

Criterion have previously released both Cléo de 5 à 7 (as spine #73) and Vagabond (spine #74) although both editions were at Criterion's lowest scale of DVD production - Cleo was single-layered, interlaced and had no extras. Vagabond was not anamorphic and had no extras save some short liner notes. Both have improved extensively and we have compared a few captures below. I'll comment on each transfer individually:

La Pointe-courte (1956) - looks fabulous. The print used was very clean and detail is magnificent considering the age of the film (52 years old!). Contrast is at Criterion's hallmark levels but as we have mentioned before - it is is pictureboxed transferred. As with all these releases they have excellent subtitle translation and audio was very clear on this DVD.

Cléo de 5 à 7 (1961) - Certainly superior to Criterion's first release of this film on DVD. It has improved clarity (it is now 16X9 enhanced), as well as a different, presumably more accurate, subtitle translation. It is slightly darker and shows less damage marks (I now suspect the original to have some slight contrast boosting). The new Criterion shows more information in the frame. I didn't notice any improvement in audio, but that doesn't mean it isn't better. I noted some hiss now and again but nothing untoward. 

Le Bonheur (1965) - looks fairly weak at times - there is a lot of digital noise (perhaps replacing grain) but colors look very good and although there are some blemishes and dirt, detail is fairly strong in close-ups. I suspect this may be as good as this film will look on DVD barring a full restoration (which may never come). the film reminded me somewhat of Eric Rohmer's work.

Vagabond (1985) - Probably my favorite film in the boxset and it has significant improvement in my opinion. In side-by-side comparison the old release now appears to have some black boosting. Once again the new transfer shows more information in the frame and less digital artifacts. The new has a bit of red but we can't really critique the appearance too heavily as they are all 'director approved'.

Extras are wonderful... and endless (although no commentaries). Fans of Varda couldn't ask for more. All the supplements are listed above but I will highlight some of the ones I enjoyed the most.

In all the interviews a bit of Agnès Varda's personality shines through - a twinkle in her eyes or a smiling anecdote really help to appreciate her warmth and understand a bit about her creative intelligence. I recommend watching all of them - the new and the vintage (even the one with Madonna!). Both Remembrances featurettes (on Cleo and Vagabond) are worth watching. They both have been made in the last 5 years and are both about 40 minutes long. I applaud those who produced them - excellent content. I'd also like to encourage investing some time in the shorts (ranging from 1.5 minutes to almost a half hour). I enjoyed most of them and found them all quintessentially 'French' and wonderful emotional explorations (even if on a limited scale). Please don't be afraid to give them a chance. Finally the included book is comfortable to browse - a nicely appointed keepsake with thought-provoking essays and nostalgic photos.

This is a fabulous boxset. I should comment that I don't recommend watching the entire thing over 1 1/2 days though - as I did (reviewer hazard). Even though I had seen both Cleo and Vagabond previously they were still dramatically impacting (especially Vagabond) even after such a long time (since I had last seen both).  Along with some of her shorts and the interviews - this is truly a complete celebration of Agnès Varda - not only one of the great female directors of all time... but one of the greats - period. Criterion comes through again. Important and essential films - viable supplements. I feel I am going to revisit this package for the rest of my life. Strongly recommended!

Gary W. Tooze



DVD Menus


Extras


Slip Case Cover

 

 

The great Agnes Varda's film career began with this graceful, penetrating study of a marriage on the rocks, set against the backdrop of a small Mediterranean fishing village. Both a stylized depiction of the complicated relationship between a married couple (played by Silvia Monfort and Philippe Noiret) and a documentary-like look at the daily struggles of the locals, Varda's discursive, gorgeously filmed debut was radical enough to later be considered one of the progenitors of the coming French new wave.

Screen Captures

 

La Pointe Courte

 
Subtitle Sample
 

 

 

 

 


Slip Case Cover

 

 

Agnès Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer (Corinne Marchand) set adrift in the city as she awaits test results of a biopsy. A chronicle of the minutes of one woman’s life, Cléo from 5 to 7 is a spirited mix of vivid vérité and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.

Screen Captures

 

Cléo from 5 to 7

 

Subtitle Sample

 

(Criterion original release - Region 0 - NTSC TOP reviewed HERE vs. Criterion (4 By Agnes Varda Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)


 

 

(Criterion original release - Region 0 - NTSC TOP reviewed HERE vs. Criterion (4 By Agnes Varda Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 

(Criterion original release - Region 0 - NTSC TOP reviewed HERE vs. Criterion (4 By Agnes Varda Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 

(Criterion original release - Region 0 - NTSC TOP reviewed HERE vs. Criterion (4 By Agnes Varda Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


Slip Case Cover

 

 

Though married to the good-natured, beautiful Thérèse (Claire Drouot), young husband and father François (Jean-Claude Drouot) finds himself falling unquestioningly into an affair with an attractive postal worker. One of Agnès Varda's most provocative films, Le bonheur examines, with a deceptively cheery palette and the spirited strains of Mozart, the ideas of fidelity and happiness in a modern, self-centered world.

 

Screen Captures

 

Le bonheur 

 

Subtitle Sample

 

 

 

 


Slip Case Cover

 

(aka 'Without Roof or Rule ' or 'Sans toit ni loi')

.directed by Agnes Varda
USA 1985

 

Sandrine Bonnaire won the Best Actress César for her portrayal of the defiant young drifter Mona, found frozen to death in a ditch at the beginning of Vagabond. Agnès Varda pieces together Mona’s story through flashbacks told by those who encountered her (played by a largely nonprofessional cast), producing a splintered portrait of an enigmatic woman. With its sparse, poetic imagery, Vagabond (Sans toit ni loi) is a stunner, and won Varda the top prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Screen Captures

 

Vagabond

 

 

(Criterion original release - Region 1 - NTSC TOP reviewed HERE vs. Criterion (4 By Agnes Varda Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

NOTE: Subtitle sample is not exact frame

 

 

(Criterion original release - Region 1 - NTSC TOP reviewed HERE vs. Criterion (4 By Agnes Varda Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 

(Criterion original release - Region 1 - NTSC TOP reviewed HERE vs. Criterion (4 By Agnes Varda Boxset) - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)

 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Criterion Collection Spine # 418 - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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