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The Harmony of Agnès Varda and Jane Birkin

As a supplement to our Recommended Discs weekly feature, Peter Labuza regularly highlights notable recent home-video releases with expanded reviews. See this week’s selections below.

In 1987, Agnès Varda, one of the few female directors to emerge from the French New Wave, began a friendship with English superstar and model Jane Birkin. While Birkin had appeared as a cinematic object of desire as far back as Antonioni’s Blow-Up, Varda had no interest in continuing this trend. Instead, she listened. The resulting two films — one a documentary-like fiction, the other a fiction-like documentary — are signs of two major feminist icons of very different sorts finding ways to explore their own stories.

Their first collaboration might win an award for the most surprising title, given the subject matter, but Kung-Fu Master! does aptly describe one of the central metaphors in this gender-flipped Lolita narrative. Birkin plays a single mother named Mary-Jane

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