Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Vagabond (Sans Toit ni Loi) [1985]

Agnès Varda made compelling use of two interesting formal and narrative choices while making her gripping and enigmatic film Vagabond. Its theme was seeped in neorealism (no wonder, she had begun her career La Pointe Courte), and that was combined with the stylistic choice of infusing documentary elements into narrative fiction (documentary filmmaking, after all, was an integral part of her oeuvre). A stark, distressing and yet also a quietly poignant film, it starts with the discovery of the dead body of a young woman in the French countryside. Thereafter, using a technique made legendary in movies ranging from Citizen Kane to Rashomon, her life – Mona (Sandrine Bonnaire), an aimless, seemingly apathetic and compulsively solitary drifter, with no known personal or familial background except, perhaps, that she probably changed her identity to escape a dreary, bourgeois past – leading to her death, is reconstructed from witness accounts of those who met or encountered her. And thus, this tough yet vulnerable, carefree but forever escaping, emotionally complex though largely taciturn, defiantly non-conformist vagabond is brought to life through memories and faux-interviews of this disparate group of people – truck drivers, construction workers, domestic servants, farmers, bourgeoisie, money-chasers, half-blind old women, nuns, etc. She’s treated with contempt and disdain by most, and faces casual hostility, sexist stereotyping and even sexual violence along the way, but she keeps brushing them off in her obsessive quest to constantly move on; however, that said, she experiences unexpected empathy and unlikely camaraderie as well. Varda’s clinical portrayal, suffused with a bleak world-view and feminist commentaries, and Bonnaire’s superlative performance as the drifting outsider, made this not just a darn interesting work, but an important one as well.

Director: Agnes Varda
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Road Movie
Language: French
Country: France

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