Lions Love ★★★

Added to: Agnès Varda, Ranked

It seems really odd that in several film databases, the end of this film title is often omitted. As in Letterboxd, LIONS LOVE (... AND LIES) is only listed as an alternative title. But as Varda pointed out in an interview, the title itself is a triplet, it shouldn’t be separated (I would refer the film title as LLL here). And ironically it is ‘the lies’ that is neglected, the lies that’s encapsulated by the ‘stars’ in Hollywood and news report in television. LLL is a free-forming film, capturing a specific period of time under the subtext of Hollywood, 60s counterculture and politics. The film transposed the cultural landscape of New York into Los Angeles, employing Andy Warhol’s muse Viva, the creators of 1961 musical HAIR, namely James Rado and Gerome Ragni, and last but not the least Shirley Clarke as the underground New York filmmaker flying to LA with an intention to make a film in Hollywood, very much a surrogate of Agnès Varda herself.

The film often breaks the fourth wall deliberately, reminding us the film is all ‘lies’. Varda would be seen from a reflection of a mirror, mimicking a blooper, and even replaces Clarke when Clarke is fed up in shooting a scene. There’re improvised, non-sensical or metaphysical conversations, conjuring a non-restricted structure and a sense of liberty. At other times, a satire of three producers discussing the financing of Clarke’s film, or bizarre musicals with lyrics made up by LA road signs and inventory checks of a rented house is inserted for sheer playfulness. The news footage of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy dominates the later half of screen time, once again emphasises the time and place of a tragic moment by meshing documentary with fiction. LLL has a hippie vibe striving for a non-conformity arisen from counterculture , it’s less Varda but more like Warhol or even Jean-Luc Godard. I have a hard time in following the triplet of hippies, but the presence of Clarke and Varda offsets the distastefulness, it’s always nice to know two influential female directors once collaborated, that’s a good excuse to recommend and adore this film.