Enjoying a bond even stronger than love

The celebration of the 50th birthday of the eminent cinema magazine Cahiers du Cinema continues in Thessaloniki tonight, and is expected in Athens tomorrow in the form of another celebration: a cinematic tribute to Jacques Demy, a leading representative of the French nouvelle vague, a movement with which the Cahiers du Cinema is intrinsically linked. At tomorrow’s Athenian opening of the tribute at the Apollon movie theater, aficionados will have the rare opportunity to see up close another great director of the nouvelle vague, Agnes Varda. Varda, Demy’s partner from 1962 until his death in 1993, will talk about Demy the artist and lifetime companion, as well as present her own documentary on him, The World of Jacques Demy. If Jacques Demy were a tree, he would be an evergreen, abundant with leaves; he would be a cypress or a mimosa; one of those trees that never shed their leaves in winter, that stand up to the winds from the sea; a ‘classic,’ eternal, tree. He would be like the cypress, solid and dark, concentrated and serious; and like the mimosa that gives Brittany an air of the Mediterranean south – the mimosa with its funny little pods and innocent smell that is, though, so persistent, said Varda in a recent interview with Kathimerini. Jacques Demy’s cinema has this double character: serious emotions with deep roots and flowers so fine they seem like sun-drenched snowflakes. It’s as if all these contrasting notions found a place of coexistence in Demy, a magnetic and melodic place where one song responds to another like a people’s chorus. A leading figure in the nouvelle vague herself, Varda is concerned with the absence of its teachings in contemporary European cinema. A part of new French cinema deals with current social issues. The problems are recorded with honesty, a fact that often deprives films of their charm. There is no nonchalance, not even among the youth, and there is no sense of humor. This makes the films heavier still. Nouvelle vague was created by artists who were selfish – except a few – and this was accompanied by a lot of nonchalance, charm and frivolity. The actors were often impulsive, surprising. Young actresses did not have all this pressure about their appearance. They wanted to be stars… having fun, Varda argues, adding that nouvelle vague had many characteristics. Among others, was that it had to be new, to bring waves of change and a fresh breath, and a gust of wind into a monotonous, routine-ridden cinema. But there are – thankfully – many waves that rippled then and continue to ripple now. Enchanting world Demy is broadly considered the most popular director of the nouvelle vague, but he was also very much on the margins of the industry. Varda argues that he wanted to enchant the entire world be it with musical comedies or other genres. She also explains that Jacques was once an outsider because of commercial failure. For example, ‘Lola,’ a wonderful film, did not sell many tickets. It was a real cult movie but a flop at the box office. ‘Une Chambre en Ville,’ another masterpiece, had a very small audience, but Demy hoped it would have the same international success as ‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.’ Never in his life as a director was he interested – as I always am – in working in experimental cinema. Through his films, Demy created a complete cinematic world. Does Varda feel a part of it? The world of Jacques Demy exists. It also exists as a documentary I did on him and his films. It’s a world where class differences destroy human relationships. It is a world through which the artist wants to give others a little bit of happiness, a bit of a dream, a few songs. But that doesn’t always work… Neither I nor my films belong in Jacques Demy’s world, even though we might like the same things, like working with colors, a special sensitivity to music – always authentic – our aversion to blind violence. But the colors are different, the music is different, we have different narrative styles. Don’t keep looking for common elements between my films and those of Jacques Demy, even if we did share the greatest part of our lives together. ‘We Loved a Lot’ is the title of an Italian film. It’s also a melancholy song because one of us is gone…

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