One of Varda’s favorite devices, used in films from La Pointe Courte to Documenteur, is to structure her movies around fictional characters who act as foils for the non-actors who surround them. But it was only in Vagabond, one of her most celebrated features, that she filmed those non-actors trying—and failing—to figure out the movie’s main character. Mona, played in a career-high performance by Sandrine Bonnaire, has left her posh urban office job for a life on the road. The people with whom she comes into contact—a wealthy academic; a philosophical shepherd; a Tunisian laborer; an aging, giggly countess in need of company—are as fascinating and revealing a cross section of modern France as Varda has ever assembled, but the movie’s focus is squarely on Mona herself: a strong-willed young woman for whom freedom, you start to sense, is its own costly end.

Playing on November 24 & 28.