Cinema and Media Studies Agnès Varda
Sarah Cooper
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0004


Agnès Varda (b. 1928, Ixelles, Belgium) is without doubt the most significant woman director in the history of French cinema. Known affectionately as the mother and then grandmother of the French Nouvelle Vague (New Wave), her filmmaking career spans seven decades, and her most recent work is as innovative and critically acclaimed as was her groundbreaking debut, La Pointe Courte (1954). She was awarded an honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 and is the first woman to receive this prestigious prize. This accolade was followed two years later with an honorary Oscar at the 2017 Academy Awards. The majority of her works have emerged on the margins of official production and distribution, and she has produced most of her films through her own company, Ciné-Tamaris. She has made a wide variety of documentaries, fictions, shorts, and features, along with a number that lie between in style and length. All her films testify to her creativity as an artist, as does her written work throughout her career. More recently, her move into installation art in the 21st century reflects her continued capacity for experimental innovation. This article charts the different facets of her work as filmmaker, writer, and installation artist, and also the relation her work bears to painting and photography.

General Overviews

There are many useful directory entries on Varda (Carter 2002) and bibliographical sources in scholars’ studies of her work (Fiant, et al. 2009). There are also comprehensive monographs (Smith 1998, Bénézet 2014, Conway 2015). A 2010s edited volume, Barnet 2016, assesses her legacy and continuing influence. Since its inception in the 1950s, her filmmaking career has attracted much interest, and in addition to the erudite intellectual and warm popular engagement with her output evident here, Varda herself has spoken and written about her own work in compelling fashion (Prédal 1992a, Prédal 1992b, Varda 1994). Her work also has two valuable websites devoted to it (Le site filmographique Agnès Varda, réalisatrice and Ciné-Tamaris).

  • Barnet, Marie-Claire, ed. Agnès Varda Unlimited: Image, Music, Media. Moving Image 6. Cambridge, UK: Legenda, 2016.

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    An excellent collection of essays that broaches the entire span of Varda’s work across different media: from the photographic, through the filmic, to her installations.

  • Bénézet, Delphine. The Cinema of Agnès Varda: Resistance and Eclecticism. New York: Wallflower, 2014.

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    A detailed study of Varda’s production as a whole, which offers highly persuasive readings of her practice from filmmaking, through installation work to her most recent television documentary series, Agnès de ci de là Varda.

  • Carter, Helen. “Agnès Varda.” Senses of Cinema 22 (September–October 2002).

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    A good overview of Varda’s work as part of the Great Filmmakers directory on the Senses of Cinema website.

  • Conway, Kelley. Agnès Varda. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2015.

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    An expansive study of Varda’s career from her earliest film work through to Les plages d’Agnès and her installation work.

  • Fiant, Antony, Roxane Hamery, and Éric Thouvenel, eds. Agnès Varda: Le cinéma et au-delà. Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009.

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    A comprehensive anthology of Varda’s work that emerged from a 2007 colloquium at the University of Rennes, which includes discussion of her installation art as well as some excellent articles on her earlier films.

  • Kline, T. Jefferson, ed. Agnès Varda: Interviews. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014.

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    A broad collection of the interviews that Varda has given throughout her career.

  • Prédal, René. “Agnès, par Varda.” Jeune Cinéma 214 (April–May 1992a): 5–17.

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    In this and the follow-up piece, Prédal 1992b, Varda reflects on her life and work in in-depth interviews with a key French scholar.

  • Prédal, René. “Agnès, par Varda.” Jeune Cinéma 215 (May–June 1992b): 4–17.

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    This interview concludes the previous piece, Prédal 1992a, in which Varda reviews her life and work.

  • Smith, Alison. Agnès Varda. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1998.

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    A wide-ranging and intelligent introduction to Varda’s work up to the time of publication in the late 1990s. Smith’s approach is thematic, and her style is accessible.

  • Varda, Agnès. Ciné-Tamaris.

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    This site is devoted primarily to the promotion of Varda’s and Jacques Demy’s films but contains some good material relating to the most-recent sales releases, along with detailed filmographical information.

  • Varda, Agnès. Le site filmographique Agnès Varda, réalisatrice.

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    A very helpful site that features links to her films presented image by image and gives filmographical information as well as details on her installations. There are also links to sites for Mathieu Demy and Jacques Demy, along with shared pages relating to overlapping collaborations with Varda.

  • Varda, Agnès. Varda par Agnès. Paris: Éditions Cahiers du Cinéma et Ciné-Tamaris, 1994.

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    An excellent portal into Varda’s work in her own poignant and playful style, combining a mixture of text and image, along with personal and professional reflections on her life and work.

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