1.37:1, 1967, english, france, french, united states
“What we seek in painting isn't the sky but the water depths.”


Uncle Yanco

What a lovely way to open this set of films from one of my favorite filmmakers. This is a work filled with nothing but love and joy, and it made me smile.

I’m absolutely entranced with this short film, which follows director Agn├Ęs Varda as she meets a cousin of hers for the first time, the painter Jean Varda. The whole thing has such a delightful and quirky combination of honest documentary and openly staged emotions. There’s a wonderful bit right at the beginning where, after being greeted for the first time by Jean, the film cuts to many other attempts at capturing the same scene. It displays an honesty about the nature of filmed moments that’s refreshing.

It definitely also helped build my interest that the film takes place mostly in Sausalito. I live in Oakland and I’m always super interested to see films that were made here. It’s especially interesting to see a film capturing the North Bay Hippie scene in 1967, right at the height of the Bay Area as the center for countercultural America. The fashion of the Sunday visitors would almost be enough to make this film worth watching.

The film has far more to offer than that though. Varda’s “uncle,” actually her much older first cousin, is a fascinating man with a lot of very interesting things to say. We get to see his awesome mixed-media paintings, and learn a bit about him, with a ton of French philosophy as a bonus. At one point he says that he goes sailing once a week to avoid the indignity of therapy, and as someone who loves to sail I totally understand what he means.