Agnès Varda, the French New Wave pioneer, has died at the age of 90. The New York Times reports that Varda’s death from breast cancer was confirmed by a spokeswoman for her production company Ciné-Tamaris.
Varda broke out as a filmmaker in the 1950s and ’60s with films like “La Pointe Court” and “Cléo From 5 to 7" which established her as an auteur in a burgeoning French New Wave movement. While today the genre might be remembered for being a boys club populated by male filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, Varda’s contributions to the movement actually predated a lot of her male peers.
Varda was born in Belgium in 1928 and would go on to study art history and photography in France. Her existentialist films, which sometimes blended documentary and fiction or moved between the two, focused often on the lives of complex women. “We all have inside ourselves a woman who walks alone on the road,” she told Sheila Heti in a 2009 interview for The Believer. “In all women there is something in revolt that is not expressed. I’m interested in people who are not exactly the middle way, or who are trying something else because they cannot prevent themselves from being different, or they wish to be different, or they are different because society pushed them away.”
In 2017 Varda was awarded an honorary Oscar by the Academy Awards and continued to make movies, her last being the 2017 documentary Faces Places, up until her death. “I wanted to invent cinema, and be happy to be a woman,” Varda said of her career, talking to an audience at the British Film Institute in 2018. “I wanted to be a radical.”