Daguerréotypes, 1975 - ★★★★ letterboxd.com Director: Agnès Varda Watched: June 13, 2022

When I lived in the 14th arrondissement, I never felt enough confidence to patronize the small, sometimes claustrophobic, shops that are the star of this documentary. The intense human connection, where you must ask for each thing you want to buy, even a simple can of condensed milk, rather than being able to anonymously pick your items and take them to a checkout, was too stressful for me. What if I didn’t know the word for what I wanted? What if I did know the word but the shopkeeper gave me the wrong thing? What if French people were waiting to shop and I was slowing everyone down? So I very often popped into the Monoprix, loaded up my shopping basket, and never had to risk talking to a clerk.

Towards the end of this film, the wife of one of the featured shopkeepers does something rather odd, completely invading the personal space of the teenage girl who is waiting for the shopkeeper to find her a lipstick. Neither the girl nor her mother protest. Everyone in the scene is aware that this elderly woman is not well. They have been making allowances for her behavior for years, maybe decades. The first thought in my mind was “This shows you why supermarkets are popular. No one wants to be made uncomfortable by the quirky shopkeepers, no matter how colorful they are.” Où se trouve le Monoprix, s’il vous plait?

On reflection, I can see that I am projecting my own discomfort. To be fair, I get anxiety walking into any little shop, regardless of my proficiency with the language. I grew up in the 60s, but supermarkets were already well-established in our suburb of Miami. I’d like to know how long these little shops on Rue Daguerre continued to operate. To that end, I’ll be watching Rue Daguerre in 2005.