Agnès Varda directs Philippe Noiret, Sylvia Montfort and the people (and cats) of Sète in the south of France for this drama where a couple return to his hometown to consider a separation, while the earthy locals have to deal with a bureaucratic ban on them fishing in their waters while their unique traditions play out.
Three intertwining films for the price of one. We get the couple working through the existential problems of their marriage in walking and talking conversation. These playfully staged sequences have seemingly influenced not just the approaching French New Wave but Bergman and Richard Linklater. In fact if you imagine Before Midnight directed by old Swedish Ingmar you’ve pretty much captured the spine of the narrative. From this throughline plot, we also observe a De Sica style neorealist exploration of the dying fishing culture which occupys the working people of La Pointe Courte. These sequences are natural and playful. Varda brings a documentarian eye to the social structure, working day and festival celebrations of this locale. We see modernity encroaching on the simple lives, not always for the worst. The third thread is the oblivious play of the cats that populate and interrupt any shot they can. These scene stealers care not about whether Him and Her can make their love work or if the fishermen should be working poisoned waters. They just observe or cut across the lives of the humans with nary a thought nor intervention. Beautiful.