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Ulysse (1982)

Single-channel video with sound (duration 22 mins): photographic print

Ulysse tells the story of a photograph that Varda took as a young woman, which is also presented here. The film acts as an inquiry into the image: its significance in her life, and the lives of the models.

Taken on a beach in Calais, France in 1954, the photograph shows three subjects - a man, a boy, and a dead goat. Through the film we learn that the young boy, Ulysse, is the son of political refugees - then neighbours of Varda - from the Spanish Civil War. Revisiting this image almost thirty years later, Varda interrogates the memories of the moment the photograph was taken, revealing some discomfort and misremembering of the event. Alongside, she explores the wider context of that day in 1954: her own life, and her transition from filmmaking to photography; her experience before and after becoming a mother; and the wider context of current affairs, from France’s V-Day (leading to eventual US involvement in Vietnam), to the introduction of television in France. Touching upon her own life, and the political situations of each time, the film raises questions about the impact of images on our collective and individual memory.

Varda began her career as a photographer, before moving into cinema and coining the term ‘cinécriture’ to describe her unique method of storytelling; at once playful, curious, and political. Ulysse typifies this style perfectly, the intertwining narrative combining Varda’s self-reflexive memories and emotions, with the historical details and personal circumstance of the subjects on the beach.

Courtesy of the artist and Ciné Tamaris.