[Movie Review] La Pointe-Courte (1955)


France | Romance, Drama | 13+ | Director: Agnès Varda | Writer: Agnès Varda | Cast: Silvia Monfort, Philippe Noiret, Marcel Jouet, Albert Lubrano | French | 80 minutes

'The bonds between us are stronger than we are'. Agnes Varda reminds us of a lovely sentiment that we sometimes forget and tells us through her pictures gracefully in a stunningly measured work.

A man (Philippe Noiret) returns to his seaside village birthplace and asks his wife (Silvia Monfort) who lives in a city (Paris) and never been to a village to come visit the place where he had lived and grown up in. After numerous rejections, she finally decides to come and visit him – but only to forewarn him that their marriage is over. The two speak in the minimum, showing inadequate chemistry where only over discourse that it is revealed how fragile they both are.

Throughout the film, Agnes Varda shares the focus of the audience’ with the backstory of the everyday lives in the fishing village and becomes a tale of two stories in the most contradictory ways: one about a troubled relationship and the other about a dynamic life in a Mediterranean fishing village. As Varda’s first directorial film, it compellingly captures the beauty of cinematography that carries poverty with freshness. Beyond the use of non-professional actors, La Pointe Courte creates a particular style that fabricates Italian neorealism at its best. The improvisation of the villagers, tones of humor, and the natural being of the on-screen location habitat elevates the dialogue of the film and adds more color to the monochromatic film.

Although Varda was silent about the movement regarding the film, it is amusing how she could make such a film given at the time she was only 25 years old and claimed to have not watched many films. Rather, it was William Faulkner’s ‘The Wild Palms’ that provided her the literary influence upon producing the film. Varda precisely makes each scene worthwhile, even penetrates a new barrier to be identified by many critics as a precursor of the French New Wave. Carefully crafted, the shots are on par with Godard’s ‘Breathless’, if not better.

It was quite clear that Varda’s intention was more to explore and make known of the setting, rather than to tell a story. Having to pick up scenes from here and there, the storytelling here is considerably loose, in which sometimes one shall not consider himself watching a movie, but rather would be oblivious to the cinematic wanders enjoyably. As it would loosen the grip of the audience to only fixate on the lovers’ journey, more attention would be drawn to a livelier situation, the fishing village, as a comparison to the couple’s shedding love life.

The sporadic contemplative dialogue (even when having a dialogue is already quite sparse) and the slow-paced action give a feel that ‘action sure is louder than words’. The camerawork is so subtle and detailed, as Varda’s instinctive eyes reach for the perfect composition. A more fascinating scene is from when the couple’s faces meet, cutting across each other’s faces, that makes a distinct relevance to Bergman’s ‘Persona’, a film made 11 years after. Most strikingly, it reveals a closer similarity to Resnais’ ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’. La Pointe Courte marks a transformation as it explores new elements of directing, making Varda a step ahead from the other filmmakers from back then and has not stopped to influence a lot of filmmakers until now. If this film were a piece of art, it would conceivably make the finest gallery collection, but surely intriguing enough to make one stop and wonder for a long, long time.

Review written by: Clara Anastasia