(director/writer: Agnes Varda; cinematographers: Nurith Aviv/Affonso Beato/Bob Carr; editors: Sabine Mamou/Bob Gould; music: Georges Delerue; cast: Mathieu Demi (Martin Cooper), Sabine Mamou (Emilie Cooper), Lisa Blok-Linson (Lisa), Tina Odom (Tina), Gary Feldman (L’écrivain à sa fenêtre), Charles Southwood (Man on the water bed), Chris Leplus (Le producteur de l’autre film), Delphine Seyrig (Delphine (voice)); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; Janus/Criterion; 1981-France/USA-in French & English,with English subtitles)

“For Varda, emotion means pain.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The great French director Agnes Varda (“The Gleaning and I”/”Cleo From 5 to 7”) called this her favorite film, a fictional autobiography. The narrative is set in Los Angeles. A divorced mother visiting from France, Emilie Cooper (
Sabine Mamou-the editor), and her eight-year-old child Martin (Mathieu Demi-Varda’s son), lead a marginal existence while trying for a fresh start in Los Angeles while her hubby resides in France. The lyrical film paints a broad portrait of the city that starts where her previous documentary Mur Murs left off.

Emilie finds work as a typist in a business office (her boss is played by (
Delphine Seyrig), and looks all over town for a cheap place to live.

When Sabine feels bottled up she lets loose and goes outside to join her neighbors doing a polka in the street. This gives the delightful cinema verite
film a natural joy despite its grimness (for Varda, emotion means pain).