One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (1977): Agnes Varda’s Tale of Female Friendship


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Thérèse Liotard and Valérie Mairesse in One Sings, the Other Doesn’t COURTESY OF TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL

Agnès Varda’s ode to female friendship and women’s liberation traces the bond between two women over a dozen years, beginning in 1962.

That bond is forged when Apple (Valérie Mairesse), a 17-year-old with a fiercely independent streak, secures the money needed for her new friend Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard), an overwhelmed mother of two toddlers, to have a safe abortion — across the French border, in Switzerland. “Free will is philosophy in action,” the feisty teen proclaims, and when she and Suzanne meet again, 10 years later, they’re both participating in a courthouse protest over an abortion trial.

This melodrama with songs (lyrics by Varda) unfolds against the political awakening of the 1960s and 1970s, when gender roles and the idea of family were being questioned and contested.

Varda’s feminist vision embraces love, whimsy, joyful bohemia and tenderness no less than healthy anger over injustice.