PARIS/NEW YORK, (Reuters) – A few months shy of her 90th birthday, French film director Agnes Varda is in the running for a second Oscar in a year, thanks to an unlikely partnership with street artist JR in a documentary spotlighting everyday life in small-town France.
Varda – a leading light of the French New Wave cinema of the 1950s and 1960s and a contemporary of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard – won an honorary Oscar last November for her career, which includes “Cleo from 5 to 7” and “The Gleaners and I”.
With “Faces Places”, the director has now been jointly nominated with 35-year-old JR for best feature documentary. If it takes the prize, she will be the oldest person to win an Oscar in a competitive category.
For the film, the duo drove round little-known corners of France in a truck disguised as a giant photo booth, photographing residents and pasting the results on a grand scale on everything from walls to shipping containers.
The local postman, the wives of dockers, a lonely farmer: the stars of the movie are all people without power, Varda told Reuters in her garden in Paris.
“Andy Warhol said everyone should have a moment of fame… We’re telling people that they are important: they’re important for us, they’re important in the film, they’re important for you watching,” she said.
Varda described her and JR as like Laurel and Hardy.
Her co-director is known for his black and white pictures displayed in public, which recently included the giant head of a baby peering over Mexico’s border wall with the United States.
“Whether or not we win, the fact that we’re together, that we’re seeing it together, that we’re going for the first time for her and the first time for me too, I think that’s great,” JR said of the Oscars from his New York studio.
Varda said she was excited about attending the ceremony, though the glitz jars with the understated mood of her films.
“It’s as if I were a labourer and they’re taking me up to the palace. That’s great … but afterwards I’ll be going back to my farm,” she said.
A staunch feminist who signed Simone de Beauvoir’s 1971 manifesto calling for abortion rights, Varda said she supported the #MeToo movement which has led people to denounce sexual misconduct, including by men in business and entertainment.
But she said she had no plans to wear black to echo a recent show of support by some film stars on the red carpet. “I don’t like uniforms”, she said.