Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture

By Alex Hughes; Keith Reader | Go to book overview

V

Vadim, Roger

b. 1928, Paris

Director

Vadim rose to fame overnight in 1956, when he directed Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman (Et Dieu créa la femme). This film's sexual frankness and use of a young and (then) little-known lead female actor caused Vadim briefly to be assimilated to the Nouvelle Vague. His modern-day adaptation of Laclos's Les Liaisons dangereuses (1959), with Gérard Philipe and Jeanne Moreau, however, was seen as a retrograde step, and his more recent work (in the United States as well as in France) has done more for his reputation as a womanizer than as a leading cinematic auteur.

KEITH READER

See also: cinema

Varda, Agnès

b. 1928, Brussels, Belgium

Director

A naturalized French citizen, Varda is a film-maker who describes herself as an auteur and her work as artisanale. She never repeats the same style nor the same narrative-an approach that makes producers reluctant to finance her. Yet she is known as the mother of the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave). More significantly, five of her feature films have received international prizes.

Varda places her work at the interface between factual fiction and fictional fact, and speaks of filming the subjectivity of the individual as it relates to the objectivity of the environment-the individual is placed and viewed in the context of society. This means that her films are generally exceptionally topical (for example, in the 1960s she covered cancer; the 1970s feminism; and the 1980s social decline).

Varda may never repeat, but there are several distinctive features to her film-making: use of counterpoint, distanciation, and what she terms cinécriture (cine-writing). Varda was the first to understand how to transcribe counterpoint (in the Faulknerian sense of sustaining two narratives side by side) into the cinematic form that would express, simultaneously, individual and social problems. Her contrapuntal editing style is unique and one that the Nouvelle Vague film-makers adapted to their own work (Resnais and Godard). Her detachment from the story in favour of an attachment to film technique is crucial to her use of counterpoint. Both the subjective/individual and the objective/social must be observed impassively for a realism to emerge out of the collision of the two narratives. Hence Varda's frequent references to her cinema in terms of violence.

Ever since her first film, La Pointe courte

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