Thursday, May 31, 2007

Vagabond [Sans toit ni loi] (1985, Agnes Varda)

Pretty much the only thing keeping this from being a full-on masterpiece is the way Varda insists on bringing together several seemingly unconnected supporting characters near the end of the film. There's nothing wrong with the scenes themselves, but rather that she feels the need to tie up their stories at all. For a film so deliberately episodic- indeed, one where the structure consists cutting between Mona's travails and the supporting characters' reminiscences of her- this sudden need for narrative closure feels overly tidy and steals some of the film's power. But the other stuff more than holds up. It's hard to imagine a Hollywood filmmaker crafting such an unsentimental film about an impoverished dropout. Some of the people Mona encounters remark on how "free" her life is, but as we walk many miles in her shoes, these sentiments ring hollow. This isn't simply because this "freedom" has less to do with a romantic yearning for the life of the open road as it does with her antisocial impulses, but also because the idea of freedom is cold comfort on a winter's night. Rating: ***1/2.

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