As It Happens

Agnès Varda's art will 'live forever,' says friend and collaborator

Agnès Varda was busy with her art until the very end, says her friend and collaborator Julia Fabry.

Julia Fabry remembers the beloved French filmmaker and artist, who died Thursday at the age of 90

Agnes Varda reacts after being awarded with an honorary Palme d'Or during the closing ceremony of the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes in 2015. (Regis Duvignau/Reuters)

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Agnès Varda was busy with her art until the very end, says her friend and collaborator. 

Varda, the French New Wave pioneer who inspired generations of filmmakers, died in her home Thursday of cancer. She was 90.

Artist Julia Fabry was with Varda the day before she died, preparing for an installation in central France. The next day, she was at Varda's home, mourning alongside her friends, family and fans.

Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens guest host Megan Williams. 

You're at her home now, I understand. What's the mood like there now?

Very, very sweet mood, very peaceful mood, and yeah, very warm too because we've got all the family here and people working together.

Are people dropping by?

Yeah, the family and also many friends from Paris and all over the world.

People also in the street are here, because Agnes has been working on Rue Daguerre since '54. She created the Ciné Tamaris production here in '54. And everybody knows in Paris that she was living here.

The door was always open for everybody, so many people are coming in the street to give some words and some messages and some flowers outside.

Varda poses next to her installation named La Serre du Bonheur, presented as part of her exhibition at the Chaumont-sur-Loire castle on March 23. (Guillaume Souvant/AFP/Getty Images)

Can you tell me some of the things that they're saying?

Thank you, most the time.

We came outside to give some some glasses of water or wine and to share some things with the people in the street just as Agnes [would] have done, because she was always trying to share with people. It was cinema, it could be a work of art, it could be emotions or just to have a little talk. So we we tried to do the same.

You worked with her for a number of years. In fact, you were working with her just yesterday. Is that right?

She was working all the time, day and night, and she had such a strong energy that she wanted to go further all the time.

So tonight we have a huge opening at the Chaumont-sur-Loire, which is a place very near by the river, the Loire, in France ... and we had three pieces there. And in those two of three pieces, we had two brand new. So we did two installations for the place, and she was trying to find a way to give some more words about both installations.

We were speaking about that and she was aware that she was really tired, because she was fighting cancer for months now, but trying to be there all the time.

In this Nov. 11, 2017photo, Varda, left, accepts her honorary Oscar as presenter Angelina Jolie applauds at the 2017 Governors Awards in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/The Associated Press)

So an artist to the very, very end. For those who aren't familiar with Agnes' work, how would you describe her art?

She was kind of a visionary. I don't know if this is the right word, but she had this vision in life.

She was in Cuba during the revolution and she did a portrait of Fidel Castro with two huge wings, but stone wings. She was with the Black Panthers also at that time in Los Angeles in the '60s. 

She began to work with a small camera to do a documentary named The Gleaners and I. It was the beginning of the, you know, small cameras and she took one. She decided to go alone to do this documentary.

She was so curious that she could always be, you know, at the beginning of everything.

She was the oldest ever Oscar nominee for her documentary last year Faces Places and she was awarded an honorary Palme d'Or in 2015, the first woman to receive one. How did she react to these accolades late in life?

I think it was not so important for her. I mean she was very, very happy for that. I'm not going to say that it was not a pleasure for her.

But at the same time, she always used to say that she wanted to have some more money to create and to go to the films. And it was very it was difficult for her to earn some money because it was a very special cinema. It was a cinema not involved in money.

So those prizes were very important for her, and at the same time, she was more touched by the people seeing her work, her films. Sharing in the movie theater the moment with many, many people was much more important for her, I think, than being honoured and being in lights.

How do you think her work and spirit will live on?

It think it will live on because it has been half of a century of work in art in many directions. I mean, it was photography first, then it was cinema and now it's installations since more than 15 years.

She was involved in many, many ways in creation, and I think it's very important for many people. In the world of art and cinema, it's really something. So it's going to live forever.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Prodcued by Sarah-Joyce Battersby. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 


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