Faces Places is a documentary made by Agnès Varda and JR to accompany their large scale ‘Inside Out’ photography project. Their big names certainly risk stealing the limelight, but their reverence for the small army of ordinary folk they meet along the way is evident.
The documentary is preceded by an extensive list of names that roll across the screen, and it’s clear that on their road trip the pair explored the country far and wide. They are interested in putting the groups of people left behind or forgotten about on a platform, from a near-deserted mining village in the north to a collection of abandoned houses in the south.
At the time of filming, he is 33 and she 88. Although they share a close friendship, their artistic practices don’t have much in common. JR is constantly eyeing up brick walls and barn doors for his next canvas while Agnès seems more interested in the people. Importantly, he approached her. Faces Places is in the documentary competition and is incomparable with any other feature. Aware that she is running out of time, Agnès says this might be her last.
Although the film is generally light-hearted and humorous it ends on a soberer note when Agnès attempts to reacquaint herself with an old friend (the identity of which we won’t give away). Although this is a celebration of life itself, as a memory-trip for Agnès, its final sadness leaves things slightly off-balance.
A quiet epic that, given Varda’s status as near-mythic, feels slightly misplaced in the documentary competition. Incomparable, and almost unrateable, it deserves to stand alone. Faces Places is a far-reaching exploration of the corners of the country that is powerful and illuminating; it deserves to be on the national curriculum.
CAST: Jean-Luc Godard, J.R., Laurent Levesque, Agnès Varda
DIRECTORS: J.R., Agnès Varda
SYNOPSIS: Director Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist J.R. journey through rural France and form an unlikely friendship.