1985 character study
Plot: A female vagabond dies in a ditch, and we get to know her in a series of flashbacks.
Telling you the character dies in a ditch is as much of a spoiler as telling you Charles Foster Kane dies in Citizen Kane. This isn't really about her death anyway. It's more about her life, her decisions, and whether any of it has any meaning. With Mona, the smelly vagabond on the poster up there, you get a little Holden Caulfield and a little Chris McCandless from Into the Wild. It's hard to understand the character's motivations, and at times, it's even difficult to empathize with the character. Heck, it's hard to sympathize with her. However, with Agnes Varda's storytelling, it's impossible to not feel something while watching this character drift or wither or whatever she does.
I've liked every single thing I've seen from Agnes Varda. Why haven't I seen everything she's done?
This is really a movie I feel like I need to see again. It's not that the story is overly complex or anything because it really isn't. There's barely a story at all. No, the complexity here is in all these little connections. I understood that there was a metaphor or an analogy that had to do with trees, but I'm not sure I would feel comfortable trying to explain what it was all about. And when the tree people show up? No, I really had no idea what was going on with the tree people. I could tell you that I once had a nightmare as a child about tree people in my father's back yard trying to get to me, but that would just be a waste of your time. There are lines of dialogue that seem to connect, and all the characters kind of come together in the end in a way that baffled me a little bit. I think a second viewing would actually make this movie even better.
The structure of this story is a little unusual. It's a series of flashbacks, and you're not always sure you're even watching everything in chronological order. There are interview segments with characters Mona comes in contact with that could almost fool some people into thinking this is a documentary. Varda seems to employ some non-actors here, especially a philosophical goat herder who I couldn't keep my eyes off. I think I was drawn to the guy's teeth. And Varda's got such a great eye, and it was amazing watching some of these shots unfold. The camera will follow Mona as she walks, leave her to drift through landscape or whatever, and then wind up exactly where it needs to be at the exact time it needs to be there. There's nothing overtly fancy here, but there are some shots that are quietly stunning.
This was made well past the golden age of neorealism, but the way it captures humanity reminds me a lot of those kinds of films. I highly recommend it.