Watch Agnès Varda’s Les Fiancés Du Pont Macdonald: A Silent Comic Short Starring Jean-Luc Godard & Anna Karina

Agnès Var­da claimed to have seen few­er than ten movies before she made her first film at age 25. At the time, she had some pret­ty naïve ideas about film. “I thought if I added sound to pho­tographs, that would be cin­e­ma,” she recalled. She learned the essence of film­mak­ing and, by all accounts, learned it well. The result­ing film, La Pointe-Courte (1954), a self-financed doc­u­men­tary-fic­tion hybrid, is con­sid­ered one of the fore­run­ners of the French New Wave.

Fast for­ward a few years. Var­da is shoot­ing her fol­low up fea­ture Cleo from 5 to 7. The film would prove to be her break­out hit and a clas­sic of the New Wave along­side the likes of 400 Blows and Breath­less.

The film, which unspools almost in real time, is about a beau­ti­ful young singer who waits anx­ious­ly for the results of a med­ical test. We watch her as she talks with well-mean­ing friends, finds com­fort with a stranger, and even takes some time to watch a movie. In the wrong hands, the sto­ry has the poten­tial for being an unleav­ened exer­cise in exis­ten­tial angst. But, as she lat­er proved in sub­se­quent movies, she was nev­er one to let things get too dark. The movie that the hero­ine watch­es is a silent com­e­dy – one that Var­da shot her­self.


Les Fiancés Du Pont Mac­don­ald cen­ters on a Buster Keaton­sque dandy in a flat straw hat who waves good-bye to his doll-like girl­friend. Yet when he dons a pair of sun­glass­es, every­thing goes wrong. He wit­ness­es his beloved get­ting injured in an acci­dent only to be hauled off by a hearse. When he takes off the glass­es to wipe away the tears, he real­izes that he saw it all wrong. The glass­es make every­thing seem metaphor­i­cal­ly dark. No won­der the movie’s sub­ti­tle is “Beware of Dark Glass­es.” You can watch it above.

Les Fiancés is inter­est­ing not just because of Varda’s spot on pas­tiche of silent movies but also because of its cast. None oth­er than Jean-Luc Godard plays the dandy. His wife Anna Kari­na plays the girl, of course. Gen­er­al­ly, Godard’s onscreen appear­ances run the gamut from being sober and aloof to being hec­tor­ing and indig­nant. It’s fun to watch him ham it up.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Ambi­tious List of 1400 Films Made by Female Film­mak­ers

A Young Jean-Luc Godard Picks the 10 Best Amer­i­can Films Ever Made (1963)

Jean-Luc Godard Gives a Dra­mat­ic Read­ing of Han­nah Arendt’s “On the Nature of Total­i­tar­i­an­ism”

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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