A ghost of an idéa.
”If we opened people up, we’d find landscapes.”, Agnes Varda.
I did something unexpected today. I ventured out onto the streets early in the morning to visit Agnes Varda’s house. Something pulled me towards the small purple house on rue Daguerre. Perhaps it is because I have watched many Ciné-Tamaris films this past year. I watched and rewatched for clues, ideas and companionship.
Warm sunlight flooded the pavement as I turned onto the street. It is easy to see why one would stay in a neighbourhood like this for a long time, even a lifetime. I passed by many small shops full of curiosities, odd things that carry hidden stories of the people they once belonged to. I wondered what Agnes saw when she walked by the window displays. I visited some small artist studios in the neighbourhood. They sold uniquely designed earrings, brooches and other knick-knacks. I spoke to a woman that made clothing. Her studio was full of fabric scraps and patterns. She was very eager to form a connection in order to sell her creations. Make the experience memorable for the tourist.
It is a strange feeling walking in someone’s footsteps to recreate a version of what one believes the other person might have felt at some previous point in time. A ghost of an idéa you have – not them.
In 1976 Varda made a documentary about the people that lived and worked on Rue Daguerre. She called it Daguerréotypes. The film took place at a 90-meter radius from Varda’s house – the length of the electric cable for her equipment. At the time she was caring for her two-year-old son and had to stay close by.
I wonder about the daguerréotypes. Are they still there or a thing of the past? Did they stay in their community after retirement or go elsewhere? Mostly I wonder about Marcelle, the wife of the perfume maker. Did she make it outside after six? She looks trapped in the small store run by her husband. She never seems fully present, lost in thought throughout the film, in two places at once. The film describes how Marcelle has an impulse to leave each evening but never makes it further than the doorstep before returning back inside. I hope she eventually did walk further.
I’m glad I visited your home today. Thank you for leaving the world more wonderful than you found it, Agnes.
*Header photo; Agnes Varda’s door knob.