TIFF Cinematheque

One Sings, the Other Doesn't

Agnès Varda

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Agnès Varda’s 1977 masterwork is simultaneously a musical, a protest film, a portrait of a generation and, most importantly, a tender and insightful exploration of female friendship.

As politically engaged as they are formally adventurous, the films of Agnès Varda constitute one of the greatest oeuvres in modern cinema history. Emerging in the 1950s as part of what became known as the Left Bank group — a loose agglomeration of filmmakers (including Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, and American expatriate William Klein) who were more influenced by the nouveau roman, the visual arts, and left-wing politics than their cinephilic nouvelle vague counterparts such as Godard, Truffaut, and Chabrol — Varda brought to her films a unique sensibility derived from her work as a photographer and artist, creating a fascinating fusion of documentary, fiction, and fantasy.

Inspired by the director's own engagement in the era's feminist politics, Varda's 1977 masterwork One Sings, the Other Doesn't chronicles the friendship of two women against the backdrop of the Women's Liberation movement in 1970s France. In the early '60s, teenager Pauline (Valérie Mairesse) helps Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard), a mother of two, obtain an illegal abortion. After Suzanne's husband commits suicide, the two women's lives take very different paths: Suzanne moves away to raise her two children and establish an independent career in family planning, while Pauline (now nicknamed "Pomme") forms an all-female political protest band before accompanying her Iranian lover back to his homeland. Despite long periods of separation and the distance between them, the women maintain a close bond over the course of more than a decade, always there to support each other through life's challenges.

Defying categorization, One Sings, the Other Doesn't is simultaneously a musical, a protest film, a portrait of a generation and, most importantly, a tender and insightful exploration of female friendship.

BRAD DEANE

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