Called the “Grandmother of the French New Wave,” Agnès Varda is well known for the innovations she has brought to filmmaking over the decades. Not surprisingly, her autobiographical work, The Beaches of Agnès, is not your run of the mill documentary.

Varda makes use of metaphoric imagery, archival footage and creative re-enactments to share her memories of a wartime upbringing in Belgium and France, her days at the prestigious École du Louvre, family life as the wife and muse of the late fellow iconic filmmaker Jacques Demy and her subsequent feminist activist work.

That Varda’s life is peppered with a veritable who’s who of the French art world is enough to make this film an intriguing memoir, but it is Varda’s charisma, her effervescent spirit and embrace of life as art itself that makes this film such a delight to watch. The film allows us an intimate glimpse into her process of creation, the playful manner in which Varda views her craft and life in general.

Varda’s credentials are astounding, not only as one of the first filmmakers to emerge from the New Wave but she also introduced the world to much crucial talent during her 50 years in cinema (think Gérard Depardieu and Harrison Ford). Anyone with an ounce of interest in French cinema will delight in her tales of the greats from Jean-Luc Godard to Jane Birkin to, of course, Demy.

She is also a renowned photographer and video installation artist. But even if you’ve never seen a single one of her films or had the opportunity to enjoy her art, The Beaches of Agnès serves as an excellent starting point.

As her film Jacquot de Nantes celebrated the life of Demy, Varda now has the opportunity to honor her own existence with grace and a charming sense of humor. To tell her tale, she traverses the globe, making a pilgrimage to her childhood home, the beloved beaches of her youth, gives us a glimpse of her famed Monparnasse headquarters at rue Daguerre and brings us on a journey back to the beaches of California where she spent much of the turbulent 1960s. Joined by her children (respected cineastes themselves) and cherished friends, one really gets a sense of just how admired and adored the woman is.

And why? You just can’t help but love Varda, vibrant and youthful even at 80 years old. The Beaches of Agnès is a celebration of a life well lived, and we have a lot to learn from her tremendous spirit.

Grade: A

The Beaches of Agnès releases in select theaters July 3.