Feminist phenomenology and the film-world of Agnès Varda

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Through a discussion of Agnès Varda's career from 1954 to 2008 that focuses particularly on La Pointe Courte (1954), L'Opéra-Mouffe (1958), The Gleaners and I (2000), and The Beaches of Agnes (2008), this article considers the connections between Varda's filmmaking and her femaleness. It proposes that two aspects of Varda's cinema—her particularly perceptive portrayal of a set of geographical locations, and her visual and verbal emphasis on female embodiment—make a feminist existential-phenomenological approach to her films particularly fruitful. Drawing both directly on the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and on some recent film- and feminist-theoretical texts that have employed his insights, it explores haptic imagery and feminist strategy in The Gleaners and I, the materialization of space characterizing Varda's blurring of fiction and documentary, and the dialectical relationship of people with their environment often observed in her cinema. It concludes that both Varda's female protagonists and the director herself may be said to perform feminist phenomenology in her films, in their actions, movement, and relationship to space, and in the carnality of voice and vision with which Varda's own subjectivity is registered within her film-texts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-617
JournalHypatia A Journal of Feminist Philosophy
Issue number3
Early online date29 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2013


  • film-world
  • feminism
  • phenomenology
  • Varda


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