Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. West Germany/France, 1976. Ciné Tamaris, Institut National de L’Audiovisuel, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. Screenplay by Agnes Varda. Cinematography by Nurith Aviv, William Lubtchansky. Film Editing by Andree Choty, Gordon Swire.
Filmmaker Agnes Varda was inspired by a storefront on the Rue Daguerre, where her studio is still located, whose window hadn’t changed its products in decades and whose proprietor is an elderly man who attends to his customers’ diverse needs (you can get a lipstick, buttons, perfume, anything you can think of in this tiny little shop) while his wife, who is in decline, quietly attends to his side. From there Varda ventures into the many other little shops on the road and interviews their owners, asking them about their lives, their origins, their dreams and their relationships. Because she is as humane as she is curious, Varda gets well past these individuals as symbols or two-dimensional visual figures and convinces us to fall in love with their personalities and their lives. A masterful example of montage, Varda creates entire sequences that interconnect between situations beautifully, particularly a central sequence involving a curiously extreme magician and the ways his tricks are tied to the daily activities of the shopkeepers who are attending his performance. There’s a sense of community that Varda clearly admires about this bunch, and their candour for her camera shows an affection on their part for her interest in them.