Doc Talk

Doc Talk: On the beach and in the gym in films by Agnès Varda, Frederick Wiseman

Agnès Varda, whose “The Beaches of Agnès” screens Friday at the Harvard Film Archive.
Owen Franken/The New York Times
Agnès Varda, whose “The Beaches of Agnès” screens Friday at the Harvard Film Archive.


In between her delightful and profound “The Gleaners and I” (2000) and her new film, the Oscar-nominated “Faces Places,” Agnès Varda (pictured) applied the same deceptively capricious, collage style to “The Beaches of Agnès” (2008). More autobiographical than the other films, it is a tour of her life through recollections of the beaches she has known and has used as locations in her films. Among them is one in Sète in southern France, the fishing village where she spent part of her childhood and which is the setting of her first film, “La Pointe Courte” (1955), a precursor of the French New Wave.

“The Beaches of Agnès” screens Friday at 9 p.m. at the Harvard Film Archive in the Carpenter Center, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge.

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Gym dandy


Before he ventured into the grand halls of the New York Public Library for his latest documentary, “Ex Libris,” Frederick Wiseman had spent time shooting in the sweaty confines of Lord’s Gym, in Austin, Texas. Surprisingly, the people he meets in “Boxing Gym” (2010) are as diverse as are those in many of his other films about communities and institutions. At the center of all the sparring, jump-roping, speed-bagging, and iron pumping is the gym’s proprietor, former pro boxer Richard Lord , who dispenses wisdom, compassion, and encouragement to his wards as well as showing them the proper way to deliver a left hook.

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“Boxing Gym” can be seen on Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge.

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True crime

For two years women were disappearing in Mount Pleasant , but since it was a poor, African-American community in Cleveland, the police did not make the situation a high priority. Then in 2009 11 bodies were found on the premises of a convicted sex offender. 

How was he able to commit so many murders over such a long period of time, undetected — or unreported? In her documentary “Unseen” (2016), Laura Paglin investigates the story and uncovers a world in which crack addiction makes easy prey of marginalized women — whose human value has already been diminished by society’s disdain. As harrowing as the details of the victims’ fate is the testimony of those who managed to escape, including one woman who recalls that when she fled the killer and staggered onto the street, she encountered people on the way to church. “Nobody helped me,” she says.

“Unseen” is available for streaming on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes Vudu, and on DVD ($19.95) and Blu-ray ($24.95).

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Soul food


Two-star Michelin chef Jake Bickelhaupt was too ornery and independent to work long for anyone else, so he went into business for himself — in his Chicago apartment, where he and his wife, Alexa, offered a scrumptious 15-course menu. Soon they moved uptown into an old chicken joint and opened their own restaurant. Jack C. Newell relates the Bickelhaupts’ unique recipe for success in his documentary “42 Grams,” which is also the name of the restaurant — and, as anyone who has seen Alejandro Iñárritu’s film “21 Grams” (2003) knows, the weight of two human souls.

“42 Grams” is available on Netflix on Thursday.

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Peter Keough can be reached at