Directed by Agnes Varda and JR
Sympathetic French New Wave filmmaker Agnés Varda, 89, links up to photomuralist JR, 33, in the sweet and humorous documentary “Faces Places”, a celebration of friendship and art alike. The two artists visited several French rural villages and small towns for the pleasure of making art, homaging the hard-working local people.
The spontaneous duo gives wings to creativity while visiting Jeanine, the last surviving soul of a waiting-to-be-demolished coal miner neighborhood, a tireless farmer who deals with 800 hectares alone, Pirou Plage, a ‘ghost’ village whose construction was never finished, a longtime mailman friend, a solitary retired artist, two very distinct goat farms, and a chemical factory. All these places were chosen to plaster large black-and-white pictures that JR’s photobooth van spills out itself. However, my absolute favorite work included the figures of three wives of Le Havre dockers pasted on colorful vessels, in a clear support to feminism, a movement/topic that has been inherent to Varda’s personal work for a long time. In the Southern village of Bonnieux, they’ve also turned a cautious woman into a model star with her glamorous picture filling a downtown's building facade.
Real life is shown without preconceptions, even when the work doesn’t achieve the desired success. It happened with a collage on a Nazi-era bunker that rests on a desolated Normandy beach. The film then moves on with new adventures and ideas, keeping us tied up to its well-edited course of events.
It’s extremely amusing when they jest about Varda’s blurry-eyes condition, whose treatment immediately revives Luis Buñuel’s classic “Un Chien Andalou”, or JR’s tenacity in hiding his eyes behind sunglasses.
Socially conscious if slightly repetitive in its structure, the good-natured “Faces Places” reserves a touching moment to be presented at the end, having the reclusive philosopher/filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard at the center.