Agnès Varda

Scen.: Agnès Varda. F.: Nurith Aviv. Mo.: Sabine Mamou. Mu.: Georges Delerue. Su.: Jim Thornton. Int. Sabine Momou (Emily), Mathieu Demy (Martin). Prod.: Ciné-Tamaris 35mm. Col. D.: 63’. 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

This film expresses well the project I began with La Pointe courte, L’Opéra- Mouffe, and Cléo: filming passersby like in a documentary but using the images in a fictional work to make viewers feel – through the strangers filmed – the heroine’s emotions. Here, the people, the fishermen, the women waiting, and the mysterious neighbors describe what this woman and her young son do not know how to put into words.

This film is the shadow of Mur Murs. Los Angeles without sun and without miracles. As if it were nowhere. Exile. Is it a documentary? No, a documenteur. […] In fact, it is a film that has to do with what cannot be seen and what cannot be said. As if the film were not are a real film, I had a problem with imagining real actors. I saw an abstract film with people acting like in La Pointe courte. Or I saw the film as a home movie, made with friends just as they are and set where they live.

Agnès Varda, Varda par Agnès, Cahiers du cinéma, Paris, 1994

Documenteur is the shadow cast by Mur Murs, the downside, with images as dark as the first film’s are bright and colorful. A film about solitude and loneliness. Once again about the outskirts of Hollywood. The screenplay is not about a crushed star discarded by the industry according to its usual rules. That is a somewhat conventional screenplay. It is, however, a classic story, a love story after the couple has broken up, and the challenge of Documenteur is how to make a movie about love without the person desired, like filming absence.

Varda does not use the rhetoric of images of memories (flashbacks or invoking the loved one). She shows the mother and son united by their tacit silence about the ab- sent father, and exile from love through a series of strangers and foreigners, also living in exile in the city. The film’s commentary basically says so many faces, so many riddles.

[…] This is kind of the truth of Documenteur: this search is without a face, it cannot be circumscribed or demonstrated. In contrast, the erotic body of desire can be shown, what Lacan calls “l’Amur” (“Encore” seminar): “What appears in the form of bizarre signs on the body, those sexual characteristics that come from beyond, are nothing more than traces…” That is what Varda films in a long shot revealing the naked body of a man while the narrating voice asks: “What can be said of the body of a man you loved? Nothing”. Nothing, indeed, if not showing it in its insignificance, because the body of desire says nothing, only the voices of desire can be heard (what is heard in Marguerite Duras’ Navire Night).

Danièle Dubroux, Un auteur face à Hollywood, “Cahiers du cinéma”, n. 331, January 1982

Restored in 2012 by Ciné-Tamaris, Fondation Groupama Gan pour le Cinéma e Fondation Technicolor pour le Patrimoine du Cinéma
The 2012 restoration by Ciné-Tamaris, Fondation Groupama Gan pour le Cinéma, and Fondation Technicolor pour le Patrimoine du Cinéma started with the filming of the first feature by Mathieu Demy, Americano, because Demy wanted to use clips of Agnès Varda’s Documenteur, a film in which he had acted. Americano came out in theaters in November 2011. The restored film makes its premiere at Il Cinema Ritrovato 2012.