Fri, Sep 14, 2001 - Page 7 News List

Women's films to make a splash in Taipei

The French director Agnes Varda will be the focus of this year's Women Make Waves Film/Video Festival, but tribute will also be paid to the efforts of an array of local film-making talent.

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Cleo from 5 to 7, by Agnes Varda, is one of the films to be screened at the Women Make Waves Film/Video Festival.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF WOMEN MAKE WAVES FILM/VIDEO FESTIVAL

The annual Women Make Waves Film/Video Festival (女性影展) opens today in Taipei at Spring Cinema in Hsimenting.

This year, the festival will have a strong French atmosphere, featuring revered French director Agnes Varda's 12 films that span from the 1950s to this year.

The festival will showcase 50 other films, presented under categories of different women's issues such as women's bodies, sexual adventurism, cultural identities, motherhood and women's life histories. Short fiction films and documentaries make up the backbone of this year's smaller-scale Women Make Waves, with most films by local women filmmakers.

The festival will move to Kaohsiung and Taichung in October.

The poster for Women Make Waves 2001 shows a young girl peering at a small screen on to which is projected an image of the 73-year-old Varda holding a digital camera shooting scenes. The poster says "Marching forward, following the New Wave of Grandma," a direct tribute to the French director who was a pioneer in French New Wave filmmaking of the 1960s.

Varda, who always appears in her 1960s-style, rounded, bouffant hair, is known for her unique perspective and narratives, and also her prolific creativity. She began her career as a photographer and then, with virtually no knowledge of filmmaking, she wrote and directed La Pointe Courte (1954), a low-budget feature that contrasted a young couple's marital problems with the struggles of fishermen and their families in a Mediterranean village. The film's narrative structure was a precursor to stylistic devices later used by France's New Wave directors, including Francois Truffaut, Jean-luc Godard and other directors involved in the influential magazine Les Cahiers du Cinema.

Varda's second feature film Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962) pushed her into the spotlight of the major European film festivals, Cannes and Venice. Cleo is a beautiful singer awaiting a cancer diagnosis. During the two hours of waiting, between 5pm and 7pm, she anxiously wanders the streets of Paris and meeting with friends, family and lovers, until she has a long talk with a soldier on his way to fight in the Algerian War.

Vagabond (1985), one of her best films, is a powerful, almost documentary look at events leading to the death of a young drifter. Through flashbacks and brief interviews, we trace the girl's final weeks, as she camps alone or falls in with various men and women, many of whom project their needs onto her or try to give her life direction. She squats an old house, smoking hash with a man, falls for a Tunisian laborer and works beside him pruning grape vines, stays with a couple shepherding goats, meets an agronomist trying to save plane trees, gets tipsy with an old woman, and has an offer to appear in porn films.

The film won Varda a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, a Fipresci International Critics award, and best foreign-language film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Circle, among other numerous awards.

Apart the focus on Agnes Varda, the festival will also screen the outstanding feminist historical documentary Paris Was A Woman (1995), by American filmmaker Greta Schiller. The film traces an American female expatriate in Paris of the 1920s and 1930s, using home movies, old photos and interviews. The Paris of the 1920s was a permissive environment to explore art and lives and many of the women were lesbians, including writer and poet Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas.

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