Agnès Varda Sue Lermon - Essay

Sue Lermon

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Some may feel that [Daguerreotypes] is too claustrophobic in its form, in its photography, and in its approach to the content, that more controversial issues should have been raised for discussion, that this section of the so-called silent majority might have been given a greater opportunity to condemn itself in the eyes of a sophisticated and radical audience, and that more of modern Paris might have been provided as a context. It would have been interesting, particularly for an English viewer, for whom much that was shown is already virtually of a bygone era, to have known how much such ways of life are in jeopardy and what kinds of danger are foreseen by the Daguerreotypes themselves. After all, the development around the tour Montparnasse is creeping none too slowly up the Avenue de Maine in their direction. But it is possibly because the film guarded its intimacy and because it did not inquire into sensitive matters that it held the confidence of its subjects, so that they relaxed and, paradoxically, gave more of themselves….

If Daguerreotypes owes some of its attraction to its location with its unexpectednesses and eccentricities, it owes much more to perceptive direction and an eye for the details that make up people's minute to minute lives—things that can be found wherever people are living and working—and to a hesitancy to a draw conclusions, to underline points uncovered, with its consequent avoidance of condescension and snap judgments. Interpretation is up to the spectator.

Sue Lermon, "How Do They Live?," in The Times Educational Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1976; reproduced from The Times Educational Supplement by permission), No. 3162, January 9, 1976, p. 20.