La Pointe Courte

Confining itself to the pointe courte (or ‘short tip’) of a fishing village in the south of France, La Pointe Courte makes an powerful case for the transfiguring magic of simple observation.

Led by an restlessly curious eye, it remains as crisp and arresting an act of seeing today as it was in 1954.

This is Agnès Varda’s debut: a lightly autobiographic film made on a tiny budget in a place she knew well.

Its shrewdly focussed yet effervescent style shows evidence of Varda’s expertise as a photographer, while being gloriously unencumbered by cinematic conventions or legacies.

The film interweaves two main narrative strands within in its tight geographic confines.

The first concerns the (further interwoven) lives of the inhabitants of the Pointe Courte, as they make homes and raise children among harsh circumstances, and try to evade the attention of the Health Board inspector and his fishing quotas.

The other follows the fraught mini-break a Parisian couple are taking in the area. He’s a local, ambivalent and defensive about sharing the unglamorous reality of his upbringing; she’s entranced by the town but has plans to end the relationship.

As the pair ruminate on their existential malaise, they present a strikingly different presence in the quarter’s streets and docks.

Varda’s camera is, meanwhile, a palpable presence itself – gliding down streets, through windows and out of doors, always guided by clear-eyed curiosity and drawn to arresting details.

Through her portrait of one of its small corners, Varda persuades us of the endless interest to be found in the world – if only we take the time to look.

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