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With: Agnès Varda, JR
Written by: Agnès Varda, JR
Directed by: Agnès Varda, JR
MPAA Rating: PG for brief nude images and thematic elements
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 89
Date: 10/27/2017

Faces Places (2017)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Photo Stops

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The great French New Wave director Agnes Varda has remained relevant well into her eighties, making a series of wonderfully self-exploring, self-reflexive art documentaries. Her newest one, Faces Places (a.k.a. Visages, Villages) is every bit as good as her The Gleaners and I (2000) and The Beaches of Agnes (2009). Faces Places finds Agnes teaming up with French artist/photographer JR; they hit the road to find subjects to photograph, along with giant places to paste up the printed photos. They photograph a farmer and paste his image on the side of his barn, an old photo of miners is hung on an apartment building, and the wives of dockworkers are pasted giant-high on a stack of shipping containers. For fun, a series of photos on a wall magically depicts several people biting into a long baguette.

Varda and JR seem genuinely curious and grateful toward their subjects, and nothing ever feels condescending; it's a beautifully empathic film. At other points, Varda and JR try to get to know one another better; in a very touching scene, they visit with JR's 100 year-old grandmother, and Agnes frequently tries to get JR to remove his trademark dark glasses. Agnes also revisits her youth, pasting a photo of an old friend, Guy Bourdain, on a rock at the beach. In the film's stunning finale, she takes JR to visit Jean-Luc Godard — Agnes says that JR reminds her of him — although I'm not telling how that turns out. Faces Places is more than just a regular documentary; it's non-fiction, but it's highly personal, searching, inventive, and constantly evolving in the most delightful ways.

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