WATCH THIS SPACE | Jacquot de Nantes

Varda brings an uncommonly tactile approach to time, that great ungraspable. By Louis Rogers


Jacquot wants to go to film school, but his parents are making him finish technical college: he longs to be on film sets (even just hanging around at the back) but is stuck in workshops and garages. There’s a sweet irony, though – an inversion of the caustic, dramatic kind – in knowing that his father’s garage is, in fact, a film set: the one on which Jacquot de Nantes is filmed. Then, in turn, we realise that that film set is also the actual garage in Allée des Tanneurs, Nantes, where the actual Jacques grew up. It’s one of the film’s many graceful, reflexive tricks with time – bending it back around itself, and lightheartedly dismissing linearity. 

The garage – which sits unmistakably at the film’s heart, despite Jacques’ mixed feelings – indicates how these experiments with time are always involved with that other axis: space. Jacquot is entranced by stages – those of puppet theatres, then real theatres, then ultimately the meticulously crafted cardboard sets he builds for his own animations. Agnès Varda’s camera swoops and glides through the various stages in Jacquot’s world – his home; the garage; the storage attic where he makes his films. And then it cuts suddenly to a scene from one of Jacques Demy’s own films (from the future, which is also the past), with their luminously painted sets that somehow seem more real for their patent theatricality. The roots of Demy’s filmmaking are in the stages that the garage and the family home represent: this is where life happens. At first, after all, he wants to be a set builder. Retrospectively, other spaces start to seem more formative, and more theatrical: an empty cardboard box that makes the perfect toy; the single bedroom shared by Jacquot with his parents and brother, which inevitably is the stage for what Freud calls the first “scene” of all.

Tarkvosky claimed that filmmaking is “sculpting in time”. Jacquot de Nantes makes evident and irreverent use of time as a resource: layering, subverting and reforming it. But the insistently spatial nature of these experiments also demonstrates the material charge in Tarkovsky’s word “sculpting”. Seeming to learn from Jacquot’s own painstakingly constructed animated films, Varda brings an uncommonly tactile approach to time, that great ungraspable.


Jacquot de Nantes is available to stream as part of TANK’s season SCULPTING IN TIME. Subscribe for just £3 a month for access to 40+ films throughout the year.