Working with famed French photographer JR, formative French New Wave auteur Agnes Varda has one goal for her collaborative film Faces Places: to create indelible images. One way the two accomplish their objective is by having Varda document JR placing massive pasted murals of strangers’ faces around various villages (a continuation of the Inside Out Project he started in 2011). But the most memorable of the film’s images results from capturing the pure joy these two artists share whilst traveling throughout the country together. The people they encounter are the every men and women of France: coal miners, mail carriers, and housewives, all equally appreciated and honored here, their bodies becoming high-art pieces on the visages of community property.
The film builds up a heavy emotional undercurrent, as each new mural brings with it the carefully sketched backstories of both the subjects and of the two filmmakers’, who reveal much of their personal lives. JR’s 100-year-old grandmother confirms he does indeed never take off his glasses—and in the most powerful scene of the film, which involves a trip to Jean Luc Godard’s house, some painful memories are revisited. Faces Places delicately balances its emotional content, arriving at a general feeling of wonder for the possibilities artist can bring to the world.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2017 | Dispatch 2.