Elsewhere cinema’s contribution to 58% inaugural season focuses on celebrating two prolific female vanguards of cinema AGNÈS VARDA, ‘the Mother of the French New Wave’ & VĚRA CHYTILOVÁ, ‘The first Lady of Czech Cinema’.
Both directors entered filmmaking without any previous professional cinema training, often applying a multi disciplinary approach to their own unique innovative brand of filmmaking of conceptualised narratives and hyper fantasies. With this comes a creative freedom and a commitment to the film as art form that isn’t common to those preoccupied with defined movements and concrete theory.
AGNÈS VARDA, previously a painter, sculptor and photojournalist, was part of the very male dominated French new wave, who tried to carve out a specifically feminine role for her within the movement. However her bold character studies in films such as 1956’s Le pointe Courte and 1962’s Cleo from 50 to 7 cemented her individual voice within the group and allowed her to develop her own singular style. ‘when I started, in the ’50s, cinema was very classical in its aims, and I thought, I have to do something which relates with my time, and in my time, we make things differently.’
Varda’s relentless spirit meant she could map out a unique position for herself within the nouvelle vogue, one which was often dismissed by critics, ‘a Silence so systematic that Varda’s exclusion must be related to the fact that she is a woman.’
Although not explicitly a feminist throughout her whole career, her instinct to make films that connect to her time and help her understand and explore her surroundings meant that her films consistently used female leads, placing women centre stage and championed female voices to draw socio-political and philosophical themes without ever losing a sense of fun or the art of entertaining an audience.
Similarly VĚRA CHYTILOVÁ had trained as an architect, read Philosophy and worked as a fashion model and designer before joining FAMU, Prague’s famed film school. She was the first female director within the Nová Vina (Czech New Wave), thus played a key role in women’s representation within the movement. It’s important however to also mention Ester Krumbachová, Writer, Costume designer and widely credited inspiration behind many of the Nová Vina films including Daisies, Fruits of Paradise and Jan Nemec’s arresting Diamonds of the Night.
Chytilová routinely weaves an intricate mixture of visual symbols, metaphors and grotesque humour to satirise totalitarian ideologies and highlight feminist issues. The radically mischievous DAISIES is a perfect example of her fearless experimental style; the layering of coloured filters, collage, stop frame animation, incongruous sounds and fragmented editing demonstrate Chytilová’s creative journey and ambiguous attraction to filmmaking, “You don’t really begin working creatively until you are at a point where you don’t know,” she said a year after making Daisies.
The authorities banned Daisies based on its ‘explicit depiction of food wastage’, later rumours however, revealed the original ban was due to the film’s mild nudity which they declared ‘overtly sexual’. Either way it is clear that the film’s rejection of traditional values and subversive self indulgence was seen as a threat by the communist authorities, and rightly so considering Chytilová’s anarchist spirit “If there’s something you don’t like, don’t keep to the rules – break them. I’m an enemy of stupidity and simple-mindedness in both men and women and I have rid my living space of these traits.”
It is in homage of both of those alternative & groundbreaking voices of cinema, their respective different approaches to storytelling and filmmaking and their individual fighting spirit that 58% exists.
ONE SINGS, THE OTHER DOESN’T, Dir. Agnes Varda – Thursday 23rd Jun, 7pm
DAISIES, Dir. Věra Chytilová – Thursday 28th July, 7pm