As the likes of Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis know all too well, when you receive an Oscar nomination you’ll also receive an invitation to the annual Oscars luncheon. It’s a celebration of the film industry’s biggest talents and normally an event that rarely sees its invitation declined. However, from the 168 nominees invited this year, one did decline – Agnes Varda. Varda is nominated for Best Documentary Feature for Faces Places and with that nomination overtakes Christopher Plummer, who is also nominated this year, as the oldest ever Oscar nominee at 89. Varda is no stranger to cinema – she made her first film La Pointe Courte in 1955 and is often cited as a key figure in the French New Wave alongside the likes of Jean-Luc Godard and her husband Jacques Demy, who she was married to for 28 years until his death in 1990.
Varda was attending another event celebrating her acclaimed documentary she made with performance artist JR in France and was too tired to make the trip to the luncheon – so instead armed JR, who did attend, with a collection of cardboard cutouts of herself so that she could attend in spirit. The cutouts revealed a range of emotions, indicative of Varda’s clearly illuminating sense of humour. In one she held her cat, in another she looked unimpressed. Another cutout saw her reaching for her collaborator JR’s hat, who was one of the most strikingly dressed at the luncheon in a pastel pink two-piece and white sneakers.
JR revealed to Vanity Fair that the cutouts were given their own seat on a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Varda’s cutouts brought a Golden Globesesque informality to the normally refined nature of Academy-affiliated events. In fact, when it came to the famous Oscars luncheon group photograph, Varda’s cutouts brought a new dimension to the occasion. Stood alongside Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig and Meryl Streep, and behind Best supporting Actress favourite Allison Janney, Varda’s cardboard doppelgängers caused quite the stir. The million dollar question is whether Varda will attend the actual Oscars ceremony and if she wins, will she once again let her cardboard stand-ins do the talking, or lack of talking, for her?