PARIS — François-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer of Kering, has paid tribute to French filmmaker Agnès Varda, who died on Friday at the age of 90.
The executive lamented the passing of a “great lady and incomparable artist.”
Kering had close links with the director, one of the key figures in the French New Wave in the Sixties with films like “Cleo From 5 to 7” and “The Creatures.” In December 2017, the French luxury group threw a party celebrating Varda’s honorary Oscar, and she forged a friendship with Alessandro Michele, creative director of its Gucci brand.
“A cinema icon, a woman of commitment, a tireless feminist and an extraordinary artist, she conquered the world with her unique perspective on reality and creativity. We will miss her sense of fantasy, her poetic charm and her distinctive voice in the world,” Pinault said in a statement.
“The gift she leaves us is her enlightening way of being in the world, with immense simplicity. It permeated all her work, and it remains with us today,” he added.
On Instagram, Michele posted a picture of Varda with her late husband, French director Jacques Demy, with the caption: “Le bonheur,” or “Happiness” in English.
The Belgium-born director was one of the first participants in Kering’s Women in Motion program of film talks, launched at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. She was the first female director to be awarded an honorary Oscar, receiving her gold statuette from Angelina Jolie — though she insisted that was not her greatest achievement.
“You shouldn’t be making a big deal of the fact that I am a woman, but you should be making a big deal of the fact that they chose someone who does not represent Hollywood values,” Varda told WWD.
“My movies never made any money, but I have received many prizes, because my cinema interests students, teachers and film clubs. I am successful, but in the margin, and I am comfortable in that margin,” she added.
The director remained active until the end, winning over a new generation of fans with “Faces Places,” her documentary with French artist and photographer JR, which was nominated for the Oscar for best documentary at the 2018 Academy Awards.
Most recently, she was working on a follow-up documentary about her work. “It’s a sort of master class, because it’s time to leave behind a few messages,” she said at the Gucci show in Paris last September.
Varda said she had little contact with the fashion industry, noting that Michele was an exception. “I found him very handsome, very intelligent, very cultivated. I enjoyed spending half-an-hour with him. He spoiled me and I sent him a photograph of potatoes,” she said.
“Because I photograph exceptional potatoes,” she explained. “They are heart-shaped.”