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New LACMA exhibit reveals French filmmaker Agnès Varda in 1968 LA

by John Rabe | Off-Ramp®

Closeup of the cabana - the 1969 film "Lions Love" - at the new installation, "Agnes Varda in Californialand" at LACMA's Broad Contemporary Art Museum.

The installation "Agnès Varda in Californialand" is on view through June 22 at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA and is part of LACMA’s Art+Film initiative, which considers "the place of film within a museum context."

When filmmaker Agnès Varda accompanied her husband, director Jacques Demy ("the wonderful Jacques Demy," she calls him), to Los Angeles in the late 1960s, she didn't realize she'd miss Paris' most turbulent time since the Revolution.

So Varda she missed the 1968 Paris student protests. "You cannot get everything," she says with a shrug. But it was a fair trade-off.

"The minute I came to Los Angeles, I liked it very much. The space. The way it is constructed. The palm trees, the ocean and downtown. I liked it very much, and I noticed in the '60s how different it was. What was happening here in '67 was incredible, with Peace and Love, the Vietnam war, marijuana, everybody naked. ... All this was very strong and different from what I knew."

So instead of filming the unrest that brought down French President Charles de Gaulle, she made a groundbreaking film here about the Black Panthers and captured much of the rest of our turbulent '60s.


Except for the raccoon-striped hairdo, Varda's appearance is disarming. She looks like a little French grandma, but, at 85, her voice is strong and her memory acute. Yes, that's Varda with the camera on her shoulder, nonplussed, shooting a menage-a-trois back in the day.

We came with our French classical tune, you know, and we got totally overwhelmed by surprise, pleasure, understanding.

Her photos and quotes fill the walls, and in the middle of "Agnès Varda in Californialand" stands a little metal frame house whose walls and ceiling are strips of 35mm film, a positive print of Varda's film "Lions Love" (1969).

"I have the idea that you have to recycle things. If you look at it through it, you have to look at 24 images to get one second, so it's a deconstruction of time."

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