The passion of Agnes

Agnes Varda's autobiographical doc spryly dissolves all boundaries
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Toolin' around

Director commentaries are de rigueur in the DVD age, but few filmmakers possess the élan to warrant a feature length auto-exegesis. Agnès Varda is one, and her most recent memory piece — she claims it's her last — cheerfully dissolves the boundaries between memoir, retrospective, and installation. The film caps the Pacific Film Archive's month-long series, "Agnès Varda: Cinécriture," and faithful attendees will be rewarded by its recollections of earlier works from La Pointe Courte (1954) to The Gleaners and I (2000). The Beaches of Agnès begins with the 80-year old Varda spryly instructing her devoted assistants. These are people willing to enter a reverie on the placement of various mirrors. "If we opened people up, we'd find landscapes," she explains of her motivation for filmmaking, before setting off on an unclassifiable daisy chain of reenactment and reminiscence. The film moves at the leisurely pace of the flaneur's walk, the better to relish Varda's joie de vivre and sweet bawdiness. Where to begin? With her color-bending bowl cut or Chris Marker's grinning cat cameos? With the ephemera of Varda's innumerable home movies or her defense of the so-called "Manifesto of the 343 Bitches"? With the many things she adores — blurry foregrounds, ancient frescoes, heart-shaped potatoes, neighbors — or her W.G. Sebald-like resuscitation of photographs? "All the dead lead me back to Jacques," she says, referring to her great love, Jacques Demy. Their life together loops Beaches with enough beautiful images to warrant several viewings. A must.

THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS

Fri/10, 8:40 p.m.; Sat/11, 6 p.m., $5.50–$9.50

Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk

(510) 642-5249, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

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