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Mur Murs by Agnes Varda

July 20, 2009

Oh my goodness! I was completely taken off guard at work last night, I had to project a 16mm print of Agnes Varda’s film “Mur Murs”. The film is about murals, street art, and street culture in 1980 Los Angeles. I’ve always liked Varda enough, but seeing some of her older documentaries has been a real eye opener, they are colorful, playful, serious, political, and funny. This one includes lots of great shots of graffiti, those weird giant LA hyper realistic murals, goofy Venice Beach culture, lots of street shots… but especially cool were some of the scenes of the more political and community based mural projects. Judy Baca is interviewed, many of her projects are shown, and a portable mural is shown (where they drive around with highly political murals presented in the back of pickup trucks and parked in front of the unemployment office, the Bank of America, etc…). The best (to me) was a bit on Willy Herron’s awesome murals (which have a really great modern sharp/punk aesthetic that is heavily influenced by the Mexican muralists), an interview with him walking down the street looking (and acting) way too cool in 1980s sunglasses and skinny tie, an outdoor performance by his seminal punk band Los Illegals, an interview with his aunt who managed the bakery where two of his murals are located (one pictured above) and then a weird performance art piece by him and his crew. Anyone with an interest in murals, street art, radical culture, street culture, Chicano history in LA, experimental film and documentary, early punk etc… should try and see this!
The good news is it’s playing again in Portland (OR) this Friday, July 24th at 7PM at the NWFC (Whitsell Auditorium- 1219 SW Park Avenue)
The bad news is that I don’t think you can find this on DVD or readily available anywhere. (But this is part of a touring exhibition of Varda’s films, so keep your eyes open). (and if this touring program does come through, also keep your eyes peeled for Uncle Yanko, a documentary about a distant relative of hers who lives in the late 1960s Bay Area freak houseboat scene, also quite awesome!)

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2 comments on “Mur Murs by Agnes Varda”

Hi ‘icky’,
What a coincidence….I live in NYC and I just saw ‘The Beaches of Agnes’, which made me extremely interested in seeing ‘Mur Murs’. I also have a friend who is doing a photography book of NYC street murals, and he is interested in this as well.
I have just started looking into this, but so far the New York Public Library (including the research division) doesn’t have a copy of this film. From where did you get (rent, I’m guessing) your copy? My next step is to ask the people at Film Forum, which apparently showed the film in 2003.
Thanks for any help you can give.

Hey Sandra
It is coincidental, to me as well, that Icky put this up here right after I saw “The Beaches of Agnes” and I then attended a screening of shorts by Varda at Bluestockings bookstore. It was this:
Thursday, July 16th
Through the Lens Series
Screening: Agnès Varda “A Woman’s Reply”
To celebrate the release of Agnès Varda’s feature film “The Beaches of Agnes,” Matt Peterson of Red Channels presents seven short films by Varda spanning 25 years of work, including her filmic essays, silent cinema pastiche, radical travelogues, and feminist documentaries. Varda arose with of the Rive Gauche (or “Left Bank Cinema”) movement and has always delivered social realism with experimental style.
I forget who did the screening but it is possible that somebody at the bookstore could put you in touch with them. It is a potential lead.

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