Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sandrine Bonnaire, Macha Meril, Yolande Moreau, Stéphane Freiss
Written by: Agnès Varda
Directed by: Agnès Varda
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 105
Date: 05/16/1986

Vagabond (1985)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Opting Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Agnes Varda's great film about the last days of a drifting, homeless girl is simultaneously beautiful in form and heartbreaking in content. It opens with Varda's own voice, narrating. A girl (Sandrine Bonnaire) is dead in a ditch, frozen, and Vagabond wonders who she was, what might have happened to her and what led her to this end. The film plays out in segments as the girl occasionally works odd jobs for spending money, scrounges a meal, sleeps in her tent, and sometimes makes small connections with people. Varda's camera frequently drifts in long takes from right to left, suggesting someone going the wrong way, or backwards, or perhaps towards death. She makes lovely use of chilly exteriors and sometimes a splotch of color, like a discarded red scarf. In the end, of course, the girl is ultimately unknowable — and perhaps never even knew herself who she was — but Varda's film is nonetheless an act of empathy, suggesting that we never give up trying.

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