Criterion Collection Pick of the Week: Vagabond

Vagabond (1985)

Director: Agnes Varda

Country: France

Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Welcome back to campus, everyone!  And yes, it is winter.  It sucks!  Last thing we want to do is curl up in our hot dorms dying of heat when it is freezing outside.  It will likely be like this until March.  The sad part is when spring comes, we will be busy on our conference works until the end of the semester.

At least your winter will not be as horrible as Mona’s, the protagonist in this feminist film from the French New Wave pioneer, Agnes Varda.  Mona travels alone, hitchhiking her way across France.  She meets various people.  She smokes.  She drinks large amounts of alcohol.  She does drugs.  And in the end, she dies in a ditch.  How did she get there?  What happened during her final moments?  These are the questions the film tries to answer in a Citizen Kane style: there are interviews from the people she meets, but we never see her side of the story.  In fact, she’s dead in the present, but alive in the past.

The film has a unique stylistic look.  The colors are as dreary as its protagonist and season.  Mona’s travel scenes are filmed in tracking shots from right to left.  She even tries to hide from the camera during those scenes as if she’s trying to avoid being caught by the viewer.  After all, the camera can’t lie.  In its oddest of all endings, it leaves the viewer shocked and dismayed.  It’s not the most complete of complete endings, but it puts closure on Mona’s struggle.

The funny thing about this film is that it may not plead its feminist case.  When I saw this film, my opinion of Mona was not a fond one.  But in all respect, Varda tries her hand at trying to make a feminist film in the context of a male identity.  It may polarize viewers, but it’s all up to them and their picture of Mona the person versus Mona the character.

It’s a cold damp film that will make you wish it was spring already.  But in the end, it’s a case that feminists can decide themselves.  Maybe it’s something the Feminist Collective could think about.

Screenwriter. Humanities scholar. Cinephile. Samantha hails from Richmond, Virginia. She hates Hollywood synergy and people that get on her nerves. When she's not busy writing her next masterpiece or watching movies on Netflix and Hulu Plus, she serves on Student Senate, Student Life, SSSF, and SLAC where she tries to make "home" a better place for other students. Samantha would also like for people to understand that she loves Jean-Luc Godard films, even though he's anti-semitic and she's a Jew.

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