Now in her late 80s and losing her sight, filmmaker Agnes Varda – one of the most influential and important directors in the history of French film – remains a thrillingly vital cinematic voice.
Here she teams up with photo installation artist JR, and together they travel from one rural French village to another, meeting with locals, taking photographs of them, and turning those images into stunning -albeit temporary - murals, plastered over the walls of state housing, cafes, ruins and factories.
It is in the humility and kindness of Faces Places that its strength can be found. A highly personal document, the film is at once a playful exploration of the weird and wonderful shades that can be found in any person, and a profound meditation on the way societies evolve and change, the way we remember them and how we preserve the lives and lifestyles of those who came before us.
Varda and JR capture a way of life that is slowly fading away under the looming shadow of modernity and technology, and while there is an undercurrent of melancholy, the film understands that just like the lives of the people around them, ways of life come and go in the tide as well.
In this regard, the pairing of the youthful, sprightly JR and the aging but still enthrallingly dynamic Varda is a true joy to behold, as the two interrogate, joke, discuss and contemplate art against the backdrop of pastoral life.
A moving portrait of two artists at two very different stages, but nevertheless in their prime, Faces Places is the kind of gentle, unassuming and unpretentious work
so often overlooked despite the remarkably profound things it has to say about life and living.
Through simply attempting to capture the act of existing with no frills, assumptions or judgments, what could very well be Varda's final film achieves something like a state of grace.
Exempt (French with English subtitles)
A moving, lyrical documentary from one of the all-time greats, Faces Places is not to be missed.