I was 19 when I saw my first Agnès Varda movie. It was Vagabond, shown in a film history classroom. As an aspiring filmmaker, I appreciated its hybrid form, its startling color contrasts, the painterly approach to landscape. Cool, raw and undoubtedly a woman’s film — I was inspired.
It took me 10 years to see another Varda film. I’m not sure why, though perhaps years of rural living in the pre-Netflix era are a good enough excuse. But waiting to see Cléo From 5 to 7 at the age of 30 turned out to be a good move. I needed to feel that tiny twinge of mortality to love that film. It was another long wait for the revelation of The Gleaners and I at the age of 38. It is this film that I love the most, perhaps because I had finally grown up enough by then to love what I appreciate.
Political, heartfelt, smart, light and lovely, The Gleaners and I is a nearly perfect movie. Varda picks up the video camera with the playfulness of a teenager, yet the film is steeped in observations only someone who has lived more than seven decades could make. Her images and words are wise, humble, ever-curious, beautiful.
How many artists truly get better with age? After many decades of creating, how many of us truly have something new to say and can embrace fearlessly a new way of saying it? How many of us make work that reflects so honestly where we are in our lives? How many of us have as much energy as Varda has at age 82?
There’s a scene in The Beaches of Agnès where Varda talks about her love of images with out-of-focus subjects in the foreground. This strikes me as a perfect way to describe how her films have worked on me over the years. It’s me — the viewer — blurry there, coming into being before her strikingly focused films. I hope I’ll be sharp by the time I’m 82. And I hope Varda will have a new film for me to see.
Jacqueline Goss makes movies and web-based works that explore how political, cultural and scientific systems change the ways we think about ourselves. For the last few years she has used 2D digital animation techniques to work within the genre of the animated documentary. Her most recent videos are How To Fix The World — a look at Soviet-sponsored literacy programs in Central Asia in the 1930s, and Stranger Comes To Town — an animated documentary about the identity-tracking of immigrants and travelers coming into the United States.
A native of New Hampshire, Goss attended Brown University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She teaches in the film and electronic arts department at Bard College in the Hudson Valley of New York. She is a 2008 Tribeca Film Institute Media Arts Fellow and the 2007 recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in film and video. Her current project is G10, an animated fictional film about 10 characters from various countries who meet at a Swiss hotel during a conference on globalism.