Agnès Varda may no longer be with us, but fans are ensuring her memory lives on. Among the more traditional flowers, people have been leaving heart-shaped potatoes outside her home – a fitting tribute for a woman known fondly as dame patate. The Paris 86 rue Daguerre has transformed into a memorial for the filmmaker; the street where she lived for over 50 years, and studied in her 1967 documentary Daguerréotypes.
Varda, who passed away on March 29 from complications with breast cancer, was best known for her social commentary, feminist perspective, and the experimental style of her work. She pioneered the New Wave of French cinema with films including La Pointe Courte (1954) and Cléo from 5 to 7 (1961), harnessing her art to study the lives of those marginalised by society. She made two short films about the Black Panthers, in support of their campaign to free Huey P. Newton in the 60s. Varda also fervently identified as a feminist, becoming one of the “343 sluts” to sign the “Manifesto of the 343”, publicly acknowledging her abortion to protest the French government’s restrictions on reproductive rights.
Varda’s refusal to be limited in her life and work as a woman influenced her love of the potato. During a talk at the French Institute in New York in 2017, she told fans she saw herself “as a heart-shaped potato – growing again“, in reference to her return to film. Varda explored her longtime fascination with tubers in her 2000 documentary The Gleaners and I. Fully embracing the theme, she dressed up as a potato to celebrate the presentation of her immersive art installation “Patatutopia” at the 2003 Venice Biennale. The project was built using 700 pounds of tubers.
Through both her forward-thinking films and refusal to compromise on her beliefs (and love of vegetables), Agnès Varda was and will continue to be remembered as a maverick auteur of French cinema. Read back on our tribute to Varda and her relentless vision, and kinetic feminist vision.