"Jacquot de Nantes is the sort of film that no one but Miss Varda would have made or, for that matter, could have made. It's neither documentary nor, in the usual sense, fiction."
"(Agnes Varda) lives in a present that is ever enriched by the accumulating past."
- Vincent Canby
Jacquot de Nantes is obviously a very personal film. But it was not meant to be a tribute; rather, it was conceived and filmed when Demy was still alive. "Jacques would speak about his childhood, which he loved," Varda explained at a New York Film Festival press conference. "His memories were very vivid. I told him, 'Why don't you write about them?' So he did, and he let me read the pages. The more he wrote the more he remembered—even the names of the children who sat next to him in school. Most children do not know what they want to do when they grow up. But Jacques did, from the time he was 12. He had an incredible will. So I said, 'This [material] would make a good film.' I wrote the script, and I tried to capture the spirit of Jacques and his family, and the way people spoke and acted in [the 1940s]. We shot the film in the exact [locations] in which he grew up. I also filmed an interview with him. It's just Jacques speaking about his childhood. It's not a documentary about Jacques Demy. It's just him saying, 'Yes, this is true. This is my life.' "He saw most of the final [version]. When Jacques 'went away,' I had to finish the film. It was difficult, but that's the only thing I know. I think the film makes Jacques very alive."
*** Agnes Varda's film for her husband Jacques Demy was released the year after his death, but the project was conceived before that. The idea grew out of a series of conversations that occurred between Jacques and Agnes. Jacques, suffering from illness, entered a phase of reflection and remembrance that occurs as life draws to a close. He began to relay memories and anecdotes of his childhood to his wife and fellow filmmaker. Varda built a non-traditional narrative around these recorded interviews, which grew into this filmic tribute to a man, the resonance of his childhood memories, and his love of film. I really appreciate Varda's approach to telling the story of a life. In this film about her husband and the more recent Beaches of Agnes (in which she tells her own life), she aims to tell personal stories of the individual life. I disagree with the reviewer who questions the relevancy of this project to anyone who wasn't personally familiar with Jacques Demy. True, this film is not traditional biographical fare, meant to illuminate the filmmaker for some public audience, but it explores profoundly relevant human themes. This film is an exploration of relationships: man and his wife, man and his work, man and the places and memories of his childhood, man to his waning life, etc. And perhaps most importantly it is a testament to the faceted relationship between Varda and Demy - creative cohorts whose final adventure together is this beautiful film. These relationships have a tremendous relevance in their specificity.
link to Vincent Canby's review of the film for the New York Times:
trailer for the film Jacquot de Nantes (1991)