Tuesday, August 24, 2021


A Different Kind of Hangout

Au Chardon Bleu, or The Blue Thistle, acts as the center of Varda's 1976 film portrait of the street where she and Ciné-Tamaris resided, Paris's rue Daguerre in the 14th arrondissement, it's namesake the early 19th-century inventor of the copper-plate positive photographic process. The proprietors, "M. and Mme. Chardon Bleu," peddle bric-à-brac ranging from spare buttons to bespoke perfumes to hair-dye from the storefront that seems like an antique closet — the stuffed sarcophagus of the missus, who seems perpetually distracted if not in fact worryingly distraught. There's not enough room for her life. She only steps out onto the sidewalk come evenings. Nurith Aviv's camera is positioned in a tight corner, alternating 'wide' shots with close-ups, capturing the shopowners and their clientele, sometimes cadging reverse-shots either pre-planned or quickly set-up to match in a cut. 

Daguerréotypes presents the routine (in the two senses of the word; read about Mystag below) of commerce on the bustling street, an ever-shifting zone of pedestrians that stretches some seven eccentric blocks: a hairdresser's split in two, one side hosting the coiffeurs pour hommes, the other the coiffeuses pour dames; countless storefronts where items aren't only purchased or replaced but quite often repaired (brandish your coins, things aren't quite so disposable in 1976); interactions that catch the participants up on local matters, colored not infrequently by a closing note of incredulity ("How's M. Otto?" "Oh, he had an electrocardiogram..." "Mm, it's this weather...").

The quotidiana of Au Chardon Bleu mixes with the "super-magical" in the way of Mystag the Magician's routine, entertaining the locals and allowing Varda the chance to follow some of the entertainer's volunteers' daily lives on the rue Daguerre. He's so practiced that even in close-up the camera can't spoil the tricks. But the greatest maneuver of all is affection — someone says, or maybe I dreamt it: 'The idea that attraction can just happen naturally! Of course you fall into intimacy...'

(Note that the final four frames here originate from the short films, or "boni" in Agnèspeak, that the director made for a French DVD release in 2005, prior to their inclusion in Criterion's The Complete Films of Agnès Varda. They are Rue Daguerre, Pain peinture et accordéon [Bread Painting and Accordion], Daguerreotypes, objets photographiques [Daguerreotypes: Photographic Objects], and Fête de la Musique.)


Other writing on Agnès Varda at Cinemasparagus:

La Pointe-Courte [1955]

Ô saisons ô châteaux [O Seasons, O Châteaux, 1957]

L'Opéra-Mouffe, carnet de notes filmées rue Mouffetard par une femme enceinte en 1958 [The Opéra-Mouffe: Diary Filmed on the rue Mouffetard in Paris by a Pregnant Woman in 1958, 1958]

Du côté de la Côte [Around the Côte, 1958]

Les fiancés du pont Mac Donald, ou (Méfiez-vous des lunettes noires) [The Fiancés of the Pont Mac Donald, or: (Beware of Dark Glasses), 1961]

Cléo de 5 à 7 [Cléo from 5 to 7, 1962]

Le bonheur [Happiness, 1964]

Elsa la Rose [Elsa the Rose, 1966]

Les créatures [The Creatures, 1966]

Uncle Yanco [1967]

Black Panthers [1968]

Lions Love... and Lies / Lions Love [1969]

Réponse de femmes à une question produite par Antenne 2 pour le magazine 'F. comme Femme' [Women's Response to a Question Put Forth by Antenne 2 for the Magazine-Show 'F. comme Femme', 1975]

Daguerréotypes [1976]


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