73-74, 418-420 4 by Agnès Varda

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zedz
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73-74, 418-420 4 by Agnès Varda

#1 Post by zedz » Mon Apr 11, 2005 10:41 pm

4 by Agnès Varda

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/release_images/137/418_box_348x490_w128.jpg[/img]

Agnès Varda used the skills she honed early in her career as a photographer to create some of the most nuanced, thought-provoking films of the past fifty years. She is widely believed to have presaged the French new wave with her first film, La Pointe Courte, long before creating one of the movement's benchmarks, Cleo from 5 to 7. Later, with Le bonheur and Vagabond, Varda further shook up art-house audiences, challenging bourgeois codes with her inscrutable characters and effortlessly beautiful compositions and editing. Now working largely as a documentarian, Varda remains one of the essential cinematic poets of our time and a true visionary.

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Cleo from 5 to 7

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/12/73_box_348x490_w100.jpg[/img]

Agnes Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer (Corinne Marchand) set adrift in the city as she awaits test results from a biopsy. A chronicle of the minutes of one woman's life, Cleo from 5 to 7 is a spirited mix of vivid verita and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.

Special Features

- New, restored digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Agnes Varda
- Remembrances: a 2005 documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with Varda, Corinne Marchand, and Antoine Bourseiller
- Excerpt from a 1993 French television program featuring Madonna and Varda talking about Cleo
- Cleo's Real Path Through Paris, a short film from 2005 in which Varda retraces Cleo's steps through Paris, on a motorcycle
- Les Fiances du Pont Macdonald (1961), a short film directed by Varda, featuring Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina, and Varda explaining why this film was featured as the film within the film L'opera Mouffe (1958), an early short by Varda, with a score by Georges Delerue
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A new essay by Adrian Martin and a written introduction by Agnes Varda

Original DVD:
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New DVD:
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Vagabond

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/21/74_box_348x490_w100.jpg[/img]

Sandrine Bonnaire won the Best Actress César for her portrayal of the defiant young drifter Mona, found frozen to death in a ditch at the beginning of Vagabond. Agnès Varda pieces together Mona’s story through flashbacks told by those who encountered her (played by a largely nonprofessional cast), producing a splintered portrait of an enigmatic woman. With its sparse, poetic imagery, Vagabond (Sans toit ni loi) is a stunner, and won Varda the top prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Special Features

- New restored digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Agnes Varda
- Remembrances: a 2003 documentary on the making of the film, including interviews with Sandrine Bonnaire and other cast members
- The Story of an Old Lady: Varda's 2003 short film revisiting actress Marthe Jarnias, who plays the old aunt in the film
- A 2003 interview with Varda and composer Joanna Bruzdowicz
- A 1986 radio interview with writer Nathalie Sarraute, who inspired the film
- Theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A new essay by Chris Darke and written introduction by Agnes Varda

Original DVD:
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New DVD:
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La Pointe Courte

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/15/419_box_348x490_w100.jpg[/img]

The great Agnes Varda's career began with this graceful, penetrating study of a marriage on the rocks, set against the backdrop of a small Mediterranean fishing village. Both a stylized depiction of the complicated relationship between a married couple (played by Silvia Monfort and Philippe Noiret) and a documentary-like look at the daily struggles of the locals, Varda's discursive, gorgeously filmed debut was radical enough to later be considered one of the progenitors of the coming French new wave.

Special Features

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Agnes Varda
- New video interview with Varda
- Archival 1964 television episode from Cinéastes de notre temps, in which Varda discusses her early career
- Theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation

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Le bonheur

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/18/420_box_348x490_w100.jpg[/img]

Though married to the good-natured, beautiful Thérèse (Claire Drouot), young husband and father François (Jean-Claude Drouot) finds himself falling unquestioningly into an affair with an attractive postal worker. One of Agnès Varda's most provocative films, Le bonheur examines, with a deceptively cheery palette and the spirited strains of Mozart, the ideas of fidelity and happiness in a modern, self-centered world.

Special Features

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Agnes Varda
- Actor Jean-Claude Drouot revisits the film's setting forty years later
- A 2006 interview with actors Claire Drouot and Marie-France Boyer
- A 2006 discussion with four scholars and intellectuals discussing the concept of happiness and its relation to the film
- Archival footage of Varda shooting Le bonheur
- 1998 interview with Varda, discussing Le bonheur
- Du Côté de la côte (1958), a short film directed by Varda exploring the tourist destination of the Côte d'Azur
- Theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation

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skuhn8
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#2 Post by skuhn8 » Tue Apr 12, 2005 2:07 am

zedz wrote:Cleo from 5 to 7 is a gorgeous film, one of my favourites of the New Wave. Varda and Rabier manage to create a free-wheeling film that nevertheless oozes style and is densely constructed. The real-time conceit is rigidly followed (though I have my doubts as to whether the physical movement across Paris described in the film could actually be achieved in the time allocated), the film beginning at 5pm and ending at 6.30 - which begs the question of why the title indicates an additional half-hour. Are we supposed to imaginatively follow Cleo to the station with Tony? Was this shot as a two hour movie then cut down to size?
The misrepresentation inherent to the title is probably two-fold:

1) catch the viewer unawares; that is, end it abruptly for the clockwatchers
2) Cleo from 5 to Half-Past 6 would just sound too ungainly

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zedz
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#3 Post by zedz » Tue May 17, 2005 12:59 am

I've owned this for a while, but have only just got around to watching it. What a magnificent film! It reminds me of late Bresson (Quatre nuits, Le Diable probablement, L'Argent) in its dreamy austerity and in Bonnaire's amazingly unsentimental performance, but Varda adds a formal quirkiness (to-camera addresses, Citizen Kane riffing) that's all her own. As with Cleo, she's taking a restrictive structure and gleefully playing around with it.

The structure, which refracts its main character through third-person observations (some extremely fleeting), keeps the audience at arm's length while Bonnaire simultaneously draws us in with her negative energy. She's not conventionally appealing, and she's certainly not playing to the camera or audience, but she's magnetic and mysterious, and has a strong, coherent conception of her character that comes through even in this fragmented presentation. Thus, even though we never obtain a clear view of Mona or her background, and we know her fate from the outset, the film's ending is profoundly moving.

Even though this disc and Cleo are as bare-bones as they come, they're two of my favourite Criterions, and in a collection so thin on contemporary world cinema and women directors, Vagabond is particularly cherishable.

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Gregory
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#4 Post by Gregory » Tue May 17, 2005 3:20 am

I agree with your comments, except I don't see the structure of those two films as especially restictive. This is a film I've enjoyed revisiting time and time again, even for want of extras.
I'd recommend Varda's outstanding Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse as a companion piece. The films are technically quite different, although portions of Vagabond are quasi-documentary, but the common themes are many. One thing I take from the films is that the "free spirit" way of life need not be but certainly can be a mere sour-grapes reaction to an antecedent condition of poverty and social rootlessness, exemplified by Mona in Vagabond and the trailer dwellers in the Gleaners films. It reminds me of the famous Kris Kristofferson line about freedom.
I see Mona as both a gleaner and (as an outcast) a sort of refuse, which others may seek for their own purposes: to chastise her, reform her, learn from her, take advantage of her, or simply enjoy her company as a fellow gleaner.

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zedz
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#5 Post by zedz » Tue May 17, 2005 5:51 pm

Gregory wrote:I agree with your comments, except I don't see the structure of those two films as especially restictive.
What I mean is that in both films Varda sets herself some extremely demanding restrictions as to what can and can't be shown on the screen, and how it can be shown. In Cleo it's the 'screen time = real time' constraint, which is an extremely difficult thing to pull off with a narrative of any complexity - and I think Cleo and The Set-Up are the champions of that bizarre subgenre. In Vagabond the constraint is that we are only allowed to see (with only a single exception?) what others saw of Mona. So Varda sets out to create a character portrait complied exclusively of the glancing views of strangers. This is a much tougher narrative structure to work with than that of Citizen Kane, in which the central character is refracted through the extended reminiscences of people who knew him intimately. Again, I think she pulls it off beautifully.

I agree that The Gleaners and I makes a terrific companion piece to Vagabond. Two different routes to the same place.

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#6 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Feb 10, 2006 4:51 pm

Something that might add to the debate about the timing. I've just been looking through some of my old recordings of films from television and I came across Cleo From 5 to 7 that was broadcast by Channel 4 in the UK in 1996. This version of the film is the same as the Criterion release (it has the opening sequence in colour) but it does not have any of the timed chapter headings throughout the film that can be seen on the Criterion. I checked them against one another and my television version has not been edited. The scenes over which the chapter headings and times appear are still there, just without the text.

I was going to record over the tape since I had the Criterion, but I think I might keep this copy for the 'clean' version of the scenes.

I'm pretty sure that the chapter headings were intended, and I would go with the idea above that Cleo From 5 to 7 sounded better as a title, and gave the viewer a surprise at the sudden end. Could the version without the text suggests that references to time were taken off to avoid confusion?

BWilson
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#7 Post by BWilson » Mon Feb 13, 2006 6:13 pm

It's also possible that the "clean version" without "time indicating" subtitles was made for foreign markets where subtitles in the appropriate language would be dropped in.
Last edited by BWilson on Wed Mar 15, 2006 9:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#8 Post by skuhn8 » Wed Mar 15, 2006 11:51 am

Anybody seen this 36 minute piece on Cléo? Big fan of this film and would love to find it.

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#9 Post by vertovfan » Thu Jul 13, 2006 2:59 pm

I recently e-mailed http://www.cine-tamaris.com about ordering a couple of their DVDs - a double-disc set with Cleo de 5 à 7 and Daguerreotypes plus the short films l'Opera mouffe and Le Lion volatil, and a single-disc edition of Le Bonheur. Their reply was: "Both DVD will be released in the USA by Criterion next year but we can exceptionnally send it to you, knowing that there are zone 2 DVD..."

Wonderful news, if true - Le Bonheur is a favorite of mine. I wonder if the shorts would be included in a Criterion release...

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#10 Post by Cinephrenic » Thu Jul 13, 2006 3:07 pm

Le bonheur has been a Janus film, but it is good to see its coming sooner than later. Good news.

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Matt
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#11 Post by Matt » Thu Jul 13, 2006 4:51 pm

That's good news. Cine-Tamaris' Cléo disc is a corker. I would hope that Criterion can improve on all existing transfers, though, because as the C-T transfer is crisper and more balanced, it's also slightly cropped compared to the current Criterion transfer.

Are there any supplements of note on the C-T Le Bonheur disc?

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Arn777
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#12 Post by Arn777 » Thu Jul 13, 2006 5:10 pm

I nearly bought it last week while in Paris, but my hands were already full of dvds. :shock:
There are quite a few supplements with Le Bonheur: Agnès Varda discussing the film 30+ years later, one of the actor going back to the location, what is happiness? answered by local folks as well as other bits and pieces and also an extract from a documentary from 64.

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#13 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Thu Jul 13, 2006 5:15 pm

Arn777 wrote:There are quite a few supplements with Le Bonheur: Agnès Varda discussing the film 30+ years later, one of the actor going back to the location, what is happiness? answered by local folks as well as other bits and pieces and also an extract from a documentary from 64.
Jesus. =P~

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zedz
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#14 Post by zedz » Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:00 pm

Great news. More Varda can only be a good thing. A reissue of the neglected Cleo would also be terrific: there's no way such a great film should have been bare bones in the first place. Maybe Varda will be able to explain the film's timing discrepancy.

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#15 Post by Derek Estes » Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:07 pm

zedz wrote: Varda will be able to explain the film's timing discrepancy.
I just re-watched Cleo last week, what timing discrepancy is there? I never noticed it.

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#16 Post by luxetnox » Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:27 pm

Derek Estes wrote:
zedz wrote: Varda will be able to explain the film's timing discrepancy.
I just re-watched Cleo last week, what timing discrepancy is there? I never noticed it.
Cleo de 5 à 7 is titularly 2 hours. The film is 90 minutes.

I would be more interested in hearing Varda's ideas about using such a vapid creature as the protagonist of the film.

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zedz
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#17 Post by zedz » Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:38 pm

luxetnox wrote: Cleo de 5 à 7 is titularly 2 hours. The film is 90 minutes.
And, just to clarify for those unfamiliar with the film, it's told in real time, so the on-screen story ends, quite specifically, at 6.30.

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Matt
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#18 Post by Matt » Thu Jul 13, 2006 8:40 pm

luxetnox wrote:
Derek Estes wrote:
zedz wrote: Varda will be able to explain the film's timing discrepancy.
I just re-watched Cleo last week, what timing discrepancy is there? I never noticed it.
Cleo de 5 à 7 is titularly 2 hours. The film is 90 minutes.

I would be more interested in hearing Varda's ideas about using such a vapid creature as the protagonist of the film.
Actually, I think she addresses both of these issues in the video interviews on the C-T DVD of the film.

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Matt
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#19 Post by Matt » Sun Sep 24, 2006 6:51 pm

Here are some screen caps from the Criterion disc of Cléo (top) and from the Ciné-Tamaris disc (bottom):

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Last edited by Matt on Thu Aug 02, 2007 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#20 Post by Matt » Sun Sep 24, 2006 8:57 pm

As you can see from the caps, neither edition is ideal. The Criterion is non-anamorphic and cropped on the left (not to mention the total lack of supplementary features). The Ciné-Tamaris is anamorphic and slightly crisper, but also cropped on the top and bottom to fit to a 16x9 aspect ratio. I'm shocked that a DVD released (and ostensibly supervised) by the filmmaker herself would commit the sin of cropping to fit a 16x9 screen. As you can see from the way the cropping cuts off the very bottom of some of the chapter titles, the film was clearly intended for 1.66:1 and not 1.85:1 projection.

The Ciné-Tamaris edition, of course, is a no-brainer for fans of this film and of Varda as it has tons of extra material, including the amazing documentary on her neighborhood, Daguerreotypes, and a handful of short films.

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#21 Post by Steven H » Sun Sep 24, 2006 9:40 pm

There's an english subtitled Korean DVD of this film as well, but from this review it looks like a direct port of the Criterion (there are some captures at the bottom that could be compared.) The Cine-Tamaris looks cropped *and* crooked... what the hell?

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#22 Post by denti alligator » Sat Jul 07, 2007 1:00 pm

This DVD is a mess. It's interlaced and non-anamorphic to start wth. Zooming in doesn't completely fix the non-anamorphic image, however, because it's unevenly matted. (Also, it's not 1.66:1, but closer to 1.50:1 -- is this the correct AR?) The image is also pretty soft. Plus, the subtitle size and font changes half way through the film. Then there are some missing frames (intentional?). There are some important dialogue scenes that I felt were mistranslated.

Oh yeah, and no extras. Not even a trailer. Nada.

Ripe for re-issuing? I'd say so.

The film is marvelous, of course.

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#23 Post by arsonfilms » Sat Jul 07, 2007 1:56 pm

denti alligator wrote:This DVD is a mess. It's interlaced and non-anamorphic to start wth. Zooming in doesn't completely fix the non-anamorphic image, however, because it's unevenly matted. (Also, it's not 1.66:1, but closer to 1.50:1 -- is this the correct AR?) The image is also pretty soft. Plus, the subtitle size and font changes half way through the film. Then there are some missing frames (intentional?). There are some important dialogue scenes that I felt were mistranslated.

Oh yeah, and no extras. Not even a trailer. Nada.

Ripe for re-issuing? I'd say so.

The film is marvelous, of course.
Reissues of both this and Vagabond were my first thoughts after hearing that Becker had been in Paris meeting with Varda. I wouldn't at all be surprised if they were already in the works.

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#24 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Aug 23, 2007 11:51 am

The Criterion Contraption discusses Cléo.

The Criterion Contraption on Vagabond.

This article reminded me of how good the film is, perhaps one of my favourite films in the Collection. All of the people Mona meets are really just the same as the hippies, toiling along for existence. That might be one reason why Mona is so contemptuous of the hippies when she leaves - and it seems that the reasons why the hippies feel she is a failure are not so different from the reactions of how the more affluent people would treat the hippies. It is not just seeing someone not making a go of their lives in the same way they have, but also that the presence of Mona with her rejections of the values they have is a kind of assault on their chosen lifestyle - and they have to expulse that person to continue with their lives untroubled by confrontational questions that her presence raises.

Those fears take precendence over simple human kindness - most of the people Mona meets probably know that her fate will not be a good one, but they need her to leave in order to save themselves - with the added benefit that they can then romanticise (or demonise) her in their imagination. That I think makes the bleak and undignified death of Mona the final comment on most of the other characters. Opening with the corpse and then going into the past serves the elegant purpose of keeping the sight of her body in the ditch in the viewer's mind so each person Mona interacts with is immediately subject to our question 'Why didn't you do anything?' - a question that gets more and more complex as we meet people who are sympathetic or even take physical steps to help, but remain ineffectual and eventually abandon Mona to her inevitable fate - inevitable in filmic terms because we've seen her body, but there is also a suggestion that she has moved so far beyond societal boundaries that there is no way of going back. She is as marked for death as someone with a terminal illness, and it is as if the other characters can almost smell it on her and so keep their distance in case she might be contagious (contagious in ideas and lifestyle rather than in disease), even if some try to offer some palliative care on her final journey.

The comparison the Criterion Contraption article makes with Citizen Kane is very well made, but this film arguably surpasses it - we get the Rosebud scene with Mona's painting but know nothing about the main character and are given nothing by the film to make a connection to some sort of idealised moment to stir our emotions comparable to remembering back to Kane as a boy playing in the snow while fateful choices were made by the grown ups indoors. We just know the painting is significant to her and are left to make up our own story for why it is important. The film takes pains to not show us Mona's past, perhaps so as to keep her as 'present tense' - of the here and now with no past and no future. This puts the audience in the same situation as the other characters viewing Mona, and pushes us towards looking more at the reactions of those people around her to try and understand Mona's character than looking to Mona herself for answers.

It is not a comfortable position to be in, and gets less so as the film becomes more complex. We seem encouraged to judge the characters who themselves are judging Mona, but soon it seems as if we are doing the same things as they are doing - not just turning Mona into a romantic vagabond or indigent slacker, but also making snap value judgments of the other characters. The film plays off the viewers expectations beautifully either by showing us hippies who turn bad (a great title for a Fox News show! When Hippies Go Bad!) or people who keep up appearances yet are desperately trying to shake the girl off! It sort of makes the overtly nasty and selfish yuppie couple seem better as at least there is no pretence to their actions!

It feels like a very richly detailed portrait of society, of how all these people with different views and attitudes are all co-existing and in a sense need the conflicts to define themselves against others. The essay above brings up Mona's passivity, and I think that along with her blank slate character makes the others uneasy but also fascinated by the way she seems outside the boundaries of accepted behaviour.

Not only do we feel uncomfortable as an audience but, as the Criterion Contraption essay states, we are also presented with questions about filmmaking as Varda talks about how Mona seemingly came from the sea - it suggests that what we are seeing is a romantic view of a character as being a sort of angel amongst men, which might lead us to wonder about the bias with which the other character's views of Mona are presented - are we only being given the interview soundbites that support the view that others think little of Mona and maybe the full interviews with the characters give more context for their comments? We are only getting the comments that support the filmmaker's argument for the ignorant way Mona was treated, not those that might make the other characters seem sympathetic and Mona seem less angelic or Venus-like and therefore less abused? So not only do we end up questioning the characters and ourselves as viewers, we also question the filmmaker's biases in the same way we would when looking at a documentary dealing with real people with pre-existing lives beyond the screen.

The other question about filmmaking that is brought up by the coming from the sea moment is the artificiality of a film, that Varda has totally created this character - Mona doesn't exist until the first moment we see her and whatever backstory she has is what has been written by Varda and put into the character's mouth for her to speak. Of course all fiction films are created so, but that sea moment seems to make absolutely sure that the audience knows Mona is a cipher.
The Criterion Contraption wrote:The general impression the last twenty minutes of the movie gives you is of everything collapsing on itself shockingly fast. These last scenes, more than anything else, give Vagabond its emotional power. At the film's end, I was left wondering how secure my own grip on my life was. Any film about a homeless person asks the audience this question, but usually the message is that we shouldn't give up on those on the outskirts of society. I can think of no other film that suggests so relentlessly that our best efforts keep us, at best, a few bad breaks from being found dead in a ditch or left to rot in an old age home, mourned by no one.
I agree with this, but throughout the film there are also other pointers to the tenuousness of existence as people lose their jobs or have life threatening electrical accidents. It all seems to build to a statement of the ways that human existence is based on trying to create or maintain a way of life as a diversion from thoughts of death, or of trying to create some sort of legacy that ensures they will be remembered after they are gone, while Mona throws all that into confusion by not getting involved in such projects, instead simply existing until she doesn't any more.

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#25 Post by denti alligator » Mon Oct 15, 2007 6:54 pm

I don't like that these are only available in the box. Shouldn't Criterion be making these available sparately, especially spines 73 and 74?

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