Tag Archives: Agnes Varda

Just Did It: The Kitchen’s COMMES TOUJOURS Here I Stand

BIG DANCE THEATRE’s production of ‘COMMES TOUJOURS Here I Stand’ intrigued me not for its dance or theatrical components but solely because they were using Agnes Varda’s 1961 film ‘Cleo from 5 to 7’ as a found object. I was really interested in how that would work.


Agnes Varda’s film ‘Cleo from 5 to 7’ follows through the streets of Paris a young chanteuse who fears she has cancer and is awaiting a biopsy result at 7pm. From the beginning of the film where she has her Tarot cards read, the only part shot in color, through to the end she encounters friends, colleagues and strangers and reflects on fate, mortality and herself.

Performed at New York’s THE KITCHEN, ‘COMMES TOUJOURS Here I Stand’ takes Varda’s film and uses a set of three swirling screens to catch and reflect video (some being recorded and projected live, other recorded before) while the actors bob and weave throughout their interpretation of the film. The set’s constant re-invention reflects the varying scenes from the film not in real time (as the film constructs itself) but abridged and adapted to fit in multiple costume changes, character switches, side stories and dance.

Picture 11

The choreography was demanding and exact; the actors flexible and fluid. The re-invention climaxed into a massive video screen of falls leaves with an almost empty stage, save for the heroine and the stranger walking towards her destiny.

Comme Toujours Here I Stand at The Kitchen from Big Dance Theater on Vimeo.

I look forward to future BIG DANCE THEATRE performances.

Posted by: Autumn.


This Week’s Top 5: Your Ultimate Dinner Guests


1. William Shakespeare – Let’s see: responsible for the most impressive canon of work in history; wrote in Old English but created phrases that so many of us use today (“mind’s eye,” “the world is my oyster,” “brevity is the soul of wit”); originated the characters of Hamlet, Juliet and Iago and dramatized fascinating historical figures like Richard III, Henry V and Cleopatra; and, finally, so little is actually known about him.  But he writes some damn good bar scenes so you know he’ll be a hoot!


2. Pat Kingsley – This is my guilty pleasure invite.  She will have the scoop on man behind THE TOM CRUISE.  And, because of her years on top of the celeb kingdom, she will likely know the answers to all of my pressing gossip questions.

3. JK Rowling – Her story is made for the movies – welfare to way wealthy in a handful of years – and she created a mesmerizing alter-universe of wizardy that I wish I knew first-hand.  She’s stayed classy and discerning in the midst of becoming the most famous author in the world.  Mega respect for her.

4. Jose Marti – What would this Father of Cuban independence say now?

5. Queen Elizabeth I – She ruled England for almost half a century, supported the arts, never married and used that to her political advantage.  I imagine she’d have loads to say about the guys in power who can’t seem to keep their dick in their pants.  Shakespeare and Elizabeth have some catching up to do, too.


1. It may be cheesy, but I would invite my BFF (K.H.) to dinner.  Who better to share this amazing experience with than your very closest girl friend?  We would be talking about this for years to come!  Plus she could assure me that this wasn’t just a dream.

2. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I remember that when a lot of people are posed this question they want Jesus to attend the dinner.  Well, in my case I would rather have Mary Magdalene attend than Jesus.  As a mysterious and powerful historical figure, she would be a real asset to the group.  I would get all the dirt on Jesus and the Apostles and I have always wanted to know the untold (edited out) stories of biblical women figures.

mary magdalene

3. I don’t know if she would currently be pegged as my favorite author, but I have always really liked S.E. Hinton and in high school she was my number one.  She wrote “The Outsiders” when she was only 16 years old, I love how her books capture teenage angst and confusion.  She is such a colorful storyteller – maybe she could make the toast.

4. While talking about philosophy, history and art would make interesting dinner conversation, we would need someone there who could liven up the party.  I would invite my absolute favorite comedian of all time, Lucille Ball.  I love her – the physical comedy, accents, imitations – I think she is a quintessential comedian.  I can just envision what it would be like to have Lucille and Mary M. sitting side by side.

5. I decided to go big and select a music icon, someone who could round out the talent repertoire – Mr. Johnny Cash.  I think his folk stories and family tales would keep us all captivated and maybe he could play a little ditty while we sipped cappuccinos and had dessert.  Of course, a male presence might be nice too.

Jen Mae

1. Oscar Wilde– I’d love to hear his critique on the state of today’s politics. His wit is timeless and his social commentary is brilliant. I imagine Wilde will be the emcee for the evening.


2. Emily Dickinson– One of my favorite poets. My grandmother introduced me to her work when I was young, but it took me a while to really appreciate it. Dickinson’s brevity can easily be mistaken for simplicity, but I always gain insight with each new read.  There is so much mystery surrounding her life.  I’d like to learn more about her, firsthand. I’d also ask her to bring me a loaf of her famous gingerbread.

3. Dorothy Parker– Now this lady can have a good time! She is another one of my favorite poets and also a talented essayist. I expect Dot to put Oscar in his place, when necessary.  I’m positive she will be the last one to leave.  She and I will stay up all night and drink entirely too much whiskey, unless she goes home with my next guest…

4. Bill Murray – I just watched a rerun of an interview that Murray did with Elvis Mitchell on TCM’s Under the Influence. In the interview, he confessed that he has a major thing for funny, smart women, but that those women are few and far between.  Guess what Mr. Murray? I have several friends who would fit the bill, pun intended! I’ve decided to adhere to my vows during this little dinner party, but I can imagine he may find Dorothy’s wit and intellect irresistible.

5. Jesus Christ– Just wanna see if he’ll show up.


1. Agnes Varda: a french filmmaker whose films have kept me asking questions about my own life for years. i feel she would bring aplomb and an intense feminine insight to the night. a matron of media and an original director of the french new wave, i’d only ask her once how much she misses jacques demy. then we’d carry on about fantasy and her cheeky filmmaking.


2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: carrying all the history of latin america with him, the old man would bring sass, sex and full-on flavor to the night. i’d ask him about salman rushdie, jack kerouac, mark twain, lao tzu, raymond carver and octavio paz. he’d probably bring fantastic wine and weed and grab the server’s ass.

3. Henry Kissinger: i’ve had a bone to pick with him since he extended the vietnam war for 4 additional years–the time my father was forced to serve–and he’s invited solely for the shit he’d spin. a brilliant strategist and a bad man, i’d need a chaperone around this war champion and would rail him over his corporate–invested past. i hope he chokes on his entree.

4. Bill Murray: an unassuming man who has wooed the finest of women with his school boy charm and wit, he could pull my ponytails any day. i’m gonna need him to shed comical light on all the ol’ stuffies and perhaps play a delicate round of footsy with me under the dinner table. he’d sit to my right.

5. Billie Holiday: a woman of frank emotion and joy, she would sauce things up with her experience and immense talent. if she broke out in song, i would concur and cajole; the table would be set with white gardenias. i hope she’d fulfill a dream of mine: singing solo, basked in spotlight and kicking out ‘a fine romance.’

Just Did It: Agnes Varda’s ‘The Beaches of Agnes’

The first film I saw of Agnes Varda’s was Cleo from 5 to 7. It was her first film too. I was immersed headily into my film analysis classes and anything French and black and white was my fancy.
There was something clear about Agnes Varda after that first screening: I really dug what she did.

Years later, I came across another of her films, a documentary called The Gleaners and I, as I was attending another set of film analysis classes, these geared toward the documentary. Her story telling vehicle had changed from fiction to fact, the black and white to color, from film to video and many more years had passed in her life than mine.

Yet, I recognized a pacing, some movement and gestures that reminded me of Varda’s 1962 Cleo. I was fascinated by the film, telling everyone that they must see it and determined that The Gleaners and I would portend the structure, mood and style of my upcoming master’s thesis film. My professors denied me the attempt to create something that they called ‘too sophisticated’ for a graduate student. I pouted, I protested, and I made a film their way to ensure graduation. And I pined for another Varda film. A few years later, in fact just last night, I got to see one.

How funny that so much of The Beaches of Agnes has to do with aging, with memory, with walking backwards through your life and looking at it in pictures (some moving, some not) and as paintings, as visions and fantasies, as fiction and fake versions of reality. I can remember myself through the viewing of each of these films: at 20, at 26, at 32. Varda, at 80, was the sole female cohort in the French Nouvelle Vague movement of the 1960s and married a co-member, the director Jacques Demy. She honors the traditions of that movement while she continues to bombard the senses with colorful, mind-tripping loops straight through her life and she fully digresses, she admits to the audience, only once. Her other ‘digressions’ are minor and make for astonishing story arcs that weave their way throughout decades of her dance with le cinema. She weaves footage shot specifically for The Beaches with footage from all her old films, photographs she took decades before, home videos, art installations, and archival historical footage. She is bright: a wordsmith as much as a photographer, a conceptual artist as much as a documentarian, a mother as much as a wife. She is compelling in her dedication to capturing the nuance of life and she shares my love of beaches. And at 80, we listen to her, because she knows. She remembers.

Posted by: Autumn.