Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Vagabond (Agnes Varda, 1985)

I'm working my way piece by piece through Criterion's Agnes Varda box set, and although Vagabond (or, its French title, Without Roof or Rule, which I actually like better) doesn't quite live up to the promise of Le Bonheur, it's quite a good film in its own right. Sandrine Bonnaire, whom I loved in A Nos Amours, plays Mona (formerly Simone), a young drifter about whom we know almost nothing. We never learn about her past, or what (except hating life as a secretary) made her abandon normal life and live on the road; this is a breath of fresh air, as most films would have become overly bogged down in the past and sentimentalization of the road. There's no sentamentality here; the first scene in the movie is Mona frozen to death after sleeping in a ditch. She's never identified, and is buried in a potter's field. But from there, we go back to the past few weeks in her life, and find out the effect she's had on all the people she's recently met on the road.

There's the former drifter and his wife and children, who now run a sheep farm, who want to give Mona a parcel of land to farm for herself and are bitterly disappointed when she doesn't want to take up a solitary existence. There's the tree researcher, who treats Mona alternately as a freak, a pet project, and someone to whom she looks up as an example of freedom. There's the researcher's protegee, and his elderly aunt and her maid, and the Tunisian migrant worker who teaches Mona how to clip grape vines and provides the central heart of the film. Mona is up front about what she wants from people: money, food, a ride, a place to stay. But all these people take something from her, and they are much more conflicted and conventional about it. It takes almost everyone she meets a long while, if ever, to realize that Mona is someone who has something to offer, although she might not be conventionally a teacher. This is a wonderful portrait of a young woman with so much to offer, who lives how she wants (or does she?) and dies young. The Criterion transfer is beautiful, as is to be expected, and Varda's script and direction are wonderful.


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Comments on "Vagabond (Agnes Varda, 1985)"


Blogger Bob Turnbull said ... (11:15 AM) : 

I haven't yet seen the new transfer, so I may have to rewatch this. I greatly enjoyed it when I saw it a few years ago and particularly liked the way Varda's camera would occasionally continue on moving even once Mona had dropped out of the frame or stepped into a doorway - almost like the camera itself didn't really notice her suddenly missing.


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