Celebrate French Film Legend Agnés Varda In Chicago Next Week

By Joel Wicklund in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 28, 2015 7:53PM

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Agnés Varda in her 2008 documentary, 'The Beaches of Agnes' (Photo: Cinema Guild).

The history of film is dominated by men not only because it's largely men writing that history, but also because of the much harder road women have had to travel to get creative control as filmmakers. Even when they travel that road successfully, credit is often slow in coming.

A case-in-point is Agnés Varda, who was right there as French cinema was having one of the great creative renaissances any national cinema has ever had—The French New Wave. But while names like Goddard, Truffaut, Chabrol and Rivette still loom large, Varda is really just beginning to claim her rightful place in cinema textbooks.

But Varda is claiming it, as evidenced by her upcoming residency at the University of Chicago (Oct. 8 to 15), which is being treated as a full-blown celebration: CinéVardaExpo. The celebration actually began before the residency and extends until Nov. 8 thanks to an ongoing exhibition of Varda's photographs and video installations. Still active at 87, Varda will attend several events, including film showings, art gallery exhibitions, panel discussions and master classes.

Varda's expansive career includes features, short films and documentaries, as well as still photography and other visual artistry. It may be her eclecticism that has kept her separated from other giants of the French New Wave. But as her work predates that movement and continued in a myriad of directions for decades after it ended, maybe that separation is fitting.

Still, her New Wave prominence will be featured, particularly with a showing of Cleo from 5 to 7 p.m.. It's a 1962 feature that is still probably her best-known film. The movie approximates real time as the title character awaits potentially dire medical test results. The film will be shown at the Music Box Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 14, with Varda in attendance. Varda's acclaimed 2000 documentary, The Gleaners and I, will show at Black Cinema House (7200 S. Kimbark Ave.) on Oct. 12.

Most of the other events will take place at the university's Logan Center for the Arts. A showing of another of her more widely-known features, Vagabond (1985), and several other events are already sold out, but there is a waiting list for many in case of cancellations. As of this writing, free tickets still remain for a discussion between Varda and artist Jessica Stockholder on Oct. 11, but expect seats to go fast.

For more details on all the events, including ticket or waiting list information, click here.