Thursday, August 27, 2020


 Elle l'ouvrira, la meuf

Not cruelly meant, and two to tango after all. Photographed by Sacha Vierny, here is one of the great films about faces, like Godard's Band of Outsiders or Bergman's The Magic Flute. But how's this for the full title, the first to set the tradition of Varda's lengthy ones: L'Opéra-Mouffe, carnet de notes filmées rue Mouffetard à Paris par une femme enceinte en 1958 [The Opéra-Mouffe: Diary Filmed on the rue Mouffetard in Paris by a Pregnant Woman in 1958, 1958]. The film is set, not close exactly to the Place de l'Opéra (though it serves up personages), but on and around the Latin Quarter's rue Mouffetard, a food marketplace frequented by the working- and lower-classes and used as a hang-out for the outright destitute, located near Varda's flat of the period. Mouffe, bouffe, (as in la grande), Varda has digested her meal well before Ferreri's big feast of '73.

L'Opéra-Mouffe shares some features with La Pointe-Courte. Its structure, for one: built out of parallel observations in sets, one poetic documentary (the street-life), in alternation with one poetic narrative (Varda's — or rather her stand-in Dorothée Blan(c)k's — amorous life with André Bourseiller, before and during Varda's pregnancy [sa grossesse] with their daughter Rosalie Varda). (He's involved in Agnès's previous films, and in 1966 can be spotted in Godard's Masculin féminin at a café table in a meeting with Bardot.) Varda likened that first film, La Pointe-Courte, to Faulkner's novel If I Forget Thee, Jersusalem (also known as The Wild Palms, as insisted upon by the editor), citing the book's seemingly surface-unrelated alternating narratives from one chapter to the next, though that doesn't jibe, isn't flush, in sitting parallel next to Varda's movie either: her picture involves a wide milieu of village fishermen and their families out of which grows, more than even merely contiguously, the drama of the two lovers, whereas Faulkner's work involves a couple tracing the US before rearriving in the southeast, and a wholly unrelated pair of jailbirds, only one of whom is truly concentrated upon, in the wake of a levee-burst. (Both La Pointe-Courte and If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem are masterpieces.) Nevertheless, Varda connects the latter film consciously to the earlier: she gives us a shot of the same wood and grain close-up from La Pointe-Courte, before a Picasso-esque shot of a citrus fruit, a sun, a flower — as a voice intones: "It was a beach / And the sun spread wide its rays..."

Carry over now to the "Quelques uns" ("Some of Them") sequence, where we're to make the connection that the faces on the Mouffetard were once those of infants (a point Varda reiterates in her accompanying Bonus) — "Vivants, ils sont absents / Morts, ils sont disparus..." ("Alive, they're absent / Dead, they're gone...")

An exhausted woman schlepps past the word "PAIX" scrawled repeatedly on the wall, potatoes dropping from her sack — another word: "Algeria." Moments later, her doppelgänger eats flowers. "RIDEAU." ("CURTAIN.")

In the 2007 Bonus, she links infancy with the elderly, as aforementioned — and muses upon the link between pregnancy and gluttony.


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