Filmmaker Agnès Varda and photographer/artist JR traveled to off-the-beaten-path sites in France and photographed the locals, leaving behind huge blowups of images on various structures. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Now 89, Agnès Varda has had a long and honorable career in the movies as an early member of the French New Wave and one of that movement’s few females. In both fiction and documentary forms (“Jacquot de Nantes,” “Cleo from 5 to 7,” “Vagabond”), she has specialized in humane portraits, typically of working-class people and often with a feminist slant.
Because of age and illness, Varda is losing her sight, and “Faces Places,’” which she co-directed, could be her last film. If so, she’s going out on a high note.
She made the movie with a much younger colleague, the French photographer and artist JR, born in 1983. It documents a road trip they made to corners of France that are well off the beaten path, such as a dying town that was once a home to many coal miners. At these sites, the pair photographed the locals and left behind huge blowups of the images on various structures.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Faces Places,’ a documentary directed by JR and Agnès Varda. 90 minutes. Rated PG for brief nude images and thematic elements. In French, with English subtitles. SIFF Film Center.
Besides their age difference, Varda and JR are a droll study in contrasts, He’s tall, she’s very short. He’s a hipster, she’s an old-school Bohemian. He constantly wears sunglasses. Both are energetic, but he has a prickly side that she lacks. Though new acquaintances, in the course of the film they develop a deep affection for each other.
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Varda herself is as much the subject of the movie as any of the people the pair photographs. At one point, she crisply considers her own death: “I’m looking forward to it. Because that’ll be that.” This is someone worth spending time with.