Originally shot in the mid-70s, Agnès Varda’s vérité documentary Daguerréotypes has aged splendidly, acquiring flavors that would’ve been inconceivable at the time it was made. Back then, Varda hauled her camera around her Paris neighborhood on the Rue Daguerre, intending to capture what went on in the little shops in what was at the time one of the city’s most bustling commercial districts. As Varda explains early on in her voiceover narration, she wasn’t looking for esoterica. She filmed butchers, bakers, tailors, grocers, hairstylists, driving-school instructors… people she saw every day. And her vignettes are short: just a transaction or two, cut together with interviews about the merchants’ pasts, and portrait-style shots of them puttering about their businesses. Sometimes Varda brings the camera in close and loose, approximating reality, and sometimes she stands back and takes in the tableau as though it were a piece of art, as in one shot of a salon where the customers and the poster-sized photos of well-coiffed models become fused into a single plane.


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