Sans toit ni loi / Vagabond (Agnès Varda, 1985)Adam & Josh's takes (starts at 53:20)
Aside from "unwaveringly humanistic", there's really no telling what a Varda film will be like when sitting down to watch it. I suppose this might be where she settles on a style that straddles the line between documentary and fiction - we'll see with the next two - but even then, it's not like this is a Dardenne film either. We have Yolande Moreau (delightful as always) adressing the camera directly, and one gets the sense that realism isn't Varda's concern so much as conveying a certain idea of France, and more specifically the margins of it. Well, I say the margins but this is what we'd refer to as "la France profonde" (ie "deep France"), so quite the contrary to the margins I suppose... except for our main character of course. She is very much a marginal, and - from the first time a radio is turned on - I kept expecting the anthem of 80s marginals to turn up (that would be Les Rita Mitsouko's Marcia Baïla - perhaps not incidentally about a woman who died prematurely) and Varda did not let me down.
I didn't think of the Citizen Kane comparison when it comes to the plot, but I suppose it's there, in that we ostensibly spend the film trying to understand Sandrine Bonnaire's character, and what led her to end up in that ditch. I really like the point Adam makes about that first interaction we see with the truck driver: I took her comment about "the ride not being free" as referring to the possibility of a sexual exchange, but his reading of it seems much more in line with the film as a whole, which presents Mona as someone who has quite simply chosen to opt out of the social contract. Where the Kane comparison fails though, is that the film is only half-character study : just as interesting are other people's reaction to her.
Like Josh, the one that I found most fascinating was the philosophy-graduate turned sheepherder. It should be noted that this is a very well-known phenomenon that happened in the 70s, specifially in the Larzac region, which is close enough to Varda's usual hunting grounds that one can reasonably assume it to be where this occurs. Varda's relationship to '68 - which the preceding film notably avoided, jumping from early 60s to early 70s - seems like particularly fertile ground to me, and I really enjoy trying to figure out where Varda stands here... it gets to this interesting dynamic in that the leftist movements entangled with that generation generally still envisioned a society based on work, which Mona can't abide: he really formulates what could be seen as the thesis for the movie when he talks about wanting to be absolutely free leading you to be completely alone. One can respect Mona's quest to be free of all attachments, a kind of wandering asceticism that has a pureness to it, but also an expiration date.
Aside from all these questions the film raises, what ultimately makes it so good is how it refuses to be depressing. As a baseline it is, because we know from the first scene how this story ends, but we're not watching a train-wreck here. This is how she chose to spend her time here, it probably wasn't optimal, but - ha - she did it her way. My personal highlight (aside from Marcia Baïla) here was also mentioned on the podcast, and that's the scene with the old lady. It's pure joy, watching Mona loosen up and laugh, but more importantly connect
, perhaps not the only time she does in the film, but it feels like the most significant one. Perhaps because - as I think Adam mentions - there is no contract here other than two people enjoying each other's company and a glass of Cognac, which sounds like Mona's idea of an ideal world.8/10