During her first sojourn to California, Varda had discussions with Columbia Pictures for a project, but it fell through when they denied her the final cut. She made a feature anyway, and the way she unapologetically cut loose in it – thumbing her nose at the puritanical studio bosses through a deadpan sequence within the film – made this a zany display of her creative self-expression and an unhinged portrayal of the then rebellious spirit. Loopy, playful, cheeky, pungently satiric, self-consciously modernist, staged and theatrical – and operating somewhere between artsy fiction, elliptic meta-narrative and wry mockumentary – this was unlike anything she made before or since. And hence, while it was a decidedly bold, intriguing manifestation of its time and place – bearing Uncle Yanco’s self-reflexivity, free-form style and counterculture spirit, and having elements of Black Panthers’ political stance, albeit more caustic and underhanded in comparison –, it was also incoherent, messy and weird; in short, a film that’s bound to amuse and captivate, while also leave one flummoxed and exasperated. Set in a dazzling, sun-washed LA, it revolves around a hippie trio – doe-eyed former Andy Warhol muse Viva, flanked by Hair creators James Rado and Gerome Ragni with their silky manes – who lead a lethargic, carefree, perennially naked and yet strangely infantile existence in a villa filled with plastic props mirroring Hollywood’s artifice. The troika is joined by underground filmmaker Shirley Clarke who, ironically, plays herself while also serving as Varda’s stand-in. Though Varda missed being in Paris during the epochal May’68 protests – which she shared in her fabulous ciné-memoir The Beaches of Agnès – she nevertheless encountered an equally momentous period in the US, filled with politics, protests and cry for freedom.
Director: Agnes Varda
Genre: Black Comedy/Social Satire/Experimental Film