Legendary director Agnes Varda died from cancer at age 90 after becoming the oldest working Oscar nominee in 2018

By Peter Mikelbank
March 29, 2019 10:34 AM
Agnes Varda
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Agnés Varda, the woman whose films were essential in creating France’s New Wave cinema, has died. She was 90.

Varda, who received an Honorary Oscar in November 2017 from Angelina Jolie, died from cancer on Thursday evening, her family announced Friday.

Her most recent work, the 2017 documentary Faces Places, was nominated for an Oscar, making her the oldest working director ever nominated. She captured hearts during her campaign for the trophy, and went viral for her rose-printed Gucci look at the 2018 Oscars.

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The Belgian born director, photographer and documentary maker’s career spanned over six decades. She was responsible for award-winning features including Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962), a rare cinema verité film of a woman attending biopsy results told in real-time. Her other best known works include Le Bonheur (1965) and 1984’s Vagabond.

Agnes Varda with husband Jacques Demy
Jean-François Rault/Sygma via Getty

An acknowledged influence on women directors worldwide, Varda’s contributions to husband Jacques Demy work was considerable. The couple were married from 1962 until his 1990 death and her contributions to his work, especially his two classic Oscar nominated musicals Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Demoiselles du Rochefort (in which Varda played a nun) were widely acknowledged.

A pioneering director with an eye for young talent, Varda was the first to cast French icon Gerard Depardieu and was key in winning recognition for the dramatic talent of Catherine Deneuve, Sandrine Bonnaire and others.

Active until her death, Varda made her last public appearance in support of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Paris three weeks ago. The celebrated director was also honored at the Berlin Film Festival in mid-February.

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