At the age of 80, Agnès Varda, godmother of the French New Wave, turns the camera on herself in this enthralling autobiographical memoir. Varda shares bits and pieces from her life, which span from her childhood in Vichy France to her forays into the art-world demimonde of 1960s Los Angeles, where she crossed paths with everyone from the Black Panthers to Jim Morrison. Along the way, she revisits her friendships, reevaluates her successes and failures as a filmmaker, and recalls her blissful marriage to late husband Jacques Demy.
Combining film imagery, still photographs, and symbolic, stylized recreations of important events in her always colorful, endlessly fascinating public and private life, Varda's "Beaches" is a revealing self-portrait that weaves a spell of almost majestic power. Weaving in and out of her personal history using the beautifully effective motif of seaside locales, Varda presides over it all as feminine muse, angel, mystic traveler, and impish humorist, giving us a redolent sense of life as art, and artmaking as affirmative self-realization. Hard to categorize but impossible to overlook, "Beaches" is a career-defining triumph.