French new wave film pioneer Agnes Varda dead at 90

French film legend Agnes Varda, the only woman director to emerge from the so-called New Wave scene in the 1960s, has died aged 90 after a battle with cancer, her family said Friday.

With her two-tone bowl haircut, Varda was seen as the arty, eccentric “grandmother” of French cinema and tributes poured in for the highly-political artist revered for her originality.

Varda died overnight at home “of complications from cancer. She was surrounded by her family and friends,” the family said in a statement.

Varda worked right up to the end of her life, with a new autobiographical documentary premiering at the Berlin film festival just last month. She was still giving media interviews last weekend at an exhibition of her artworks.

“She was so far ahead of everyone else; she was the first to make films that influenced the New Wave” — a form of European art cinema, French director Claude Lelouch told AFP. “She always chose the right battles.”

Madonna tweeted a picture of herself with Varda in Paris in December 2015, Varda’s head resting on the singer’s shoulder.

“Farewell to one of my favorite filmmakers – Agnes Varda always a curious, creative, child-like spirit to the last moment. We will miss you!!”

“Selma” director Ava DuVernay also tweeted a picture of herself with the French filmmaker.

“Merci, Agnes. For your films. For your passion. For your light. It shines on,” she wrote.

French President Emmanuel Macron hailed a “tremendous filmmaker, photographer and visual artist who will be terribly missed in the French creative scene.”

Last November, Varda won an honorary Oscar at age 89 for her documentary “Faces Places”, which saw her ditch her walking stick during the ceremony for an impromptu celebratory dance with Hollywood star Angelina Jolie.

Her death came just before she was to inaugurate a show of her whimsical art installations at the Chaumont-sur-Loire castle in the central Loire valley of France on Saturday.


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