Agnès Varda

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FrançOis Truffaut

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According to the advertisement—which, for once, is true to the work being promoted—[La Pointe Courte] is a "film essay to be read," made up of two accounts: one about a couple who have been married for four years, and another about a fishing village (La Pointe Courte, near Sète). The film doesn't try to reproduce an experience or to prove any point. It tells its stories slowly, in rhythm with the consuming, transforming passage of time, in rhythm with inexorable time, under the glow of time that is beautiful as well.

Behind the suspect simplicity of the project, a number of secret intentions are hidden, left unstated because they are almost impossible to articulate. Some might fear they bear only a distant relationship to the direction and the handling of the actors.

Since the heroine of the film is in touch only with iron, and her partner only with wood, there is an intense moment of crisis when, at a certain moment, the saw cuts into a plank of wood. That is the kind of idea—I would not have discovered this one unaided!—that recurs in La Pointe Courte, as images that have been a bit too carefully "framed" follow one another, accompanied by exchanges of dialogue that are straight out of the highly intellectual theater of Maurice Clavel.

It is difficult to form a judgment of a film in which the true and the false, the true-false and the false-true, are intermingled according to barely perceived rules. (pp. 308-09)

If, by the nature of its ambitions, La Pointe Courte joins the family of films that are outside cinema—Minna de Venghel, Le Pain vivant, Huis Clos—it is nonetheless superior to these because the result matches the director's intentions. Indeed, Agnès Varda may yet one day ask herself, and confront, the essential problems in filmmaking.

The main fault with this film, which in the end, I have not understood much better than my colleagues—those who praised it and those who did not—is that it is loosely directed. I am not speaking of the technique, which is surprisingly mature for a first film, but about the completely slack direction of the actors. The acting of Montfort and Noiret (whose resemblance to Varda is perhaps not accidental) remains uncertain. Their gestures, attitudes, looks, and tones of voice remain deliberate and theoretical.

At the end of this report on a film (which is itself a kind of report), I notice that I have dealt with the vehicle rather than the content. It was the best way of avoiding the ponderous remarks that this very cerebral director confidently expects. (p. 309)

François Truffaut, "Agnès Varda: 'La Pointe Courte'" (1956), in his The Films in My Life, translated by Leonard Mayhew (copyright © 1975 by, Flammarion; translation copyright © 1978 by Simon & Schuster; reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, a Division of Gulf & Western Corporation; originally published as Les films de ma vie, Flammarion, 1975), Simon & Schuster, 1978, pp. 308-10.

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