Agnès Varda, a Belgian-born legend whose work as a director prefigured and defined the French New Wave, died Thursday at her home after a battle with cancer. She was 90.
Varda became internationally famous with her feature debut, "La Pointe Courte" (1954), about an unhappy couple living in a fishing village. She shot the film with no prior experience, but it was quickly proclaimed an important work.
Some of her other influential films include "Cléo from 5 to 7" (1961), about a pop star waiting to hear whether she has cancer; "Le Bonheur" (1965), about a seemingly happy young family man who unrepentantly takes a mistress; "Vagabond" (1984), about the death of a female drifter; and "The Gleaners and I" (2000), about French scavengers. Her 1991 documentary "Jacquot de Nantes" chronicled the life and death of her husband, fellow director Jacques Demy, who died in 1990.
In 2018, her documentary "Faces Places" (2018) — about an unlikely friendship between Varda and photographer JR — brought her an Oscar nomination, making her the oldest person ever nominated for a competitive Oscar, one year after having become the only woman to receive an honorary Oscar for her life's work as a director.
At the time she received her honorary statuette, Varda memorably danced onstage with Angelina Jolie. Ever the visual artist, when she found herself unable to attend the 2018 Oscar nominees lunch, she sent several life-sized cardboard cut-outs of herself, which were propped up alongside real-life honorees like Meryl Streep and Greta Gerwig.
Varda, physically tiny but instantly recognizable always for her bowl-cut hairdo, worked until the very end of her life — her TV doc "Varda by Agnès," her final work, aired earlier this year.
She is survived by her children Rosalie Varda and Mathieu Demy.
Varda was mourned by many filmmakers, critics, and arts institutions on social media:
Last year at Cannes, Agnès Varda invited me to breakfast. She spoke of how she was in the last year of her life. About choices. And change. I told her what she meant to me. She held my hand as I did. Merci, Agnes. For your films. For your passion. For your light. It shines on. pic.twitter.com/NP2FSJACY9
"I was a photographer first.I worked alone. I did it my way as much as I could. I have been sort of courageous about doing things, because I didn't think I should do less than my brothers." RIP Agnes Varda pic.twitter.com/NxwxLeWhbz