Faces Places (5 stars)

Faces Places

GFF 2018: Enriching, Oscar-nominated documentary from Agnès Varda and JR

There's so much to love in this Oscar-nominated road trip documentary from iconic director Agnès Varda and photographer JR, its joyful aura spilling from its seams. The two French artists have a deep respect for one another's work – JR mentions his admiration for his collaborator's films Cleo from 5 to 7 and Mur Murs, while Varda declares her love for his photos, and in particular the way he frames the wrinkles on elderly people's faces.

Not only is this an enriching documentary about a beautiful cross-generational friendship and working relationship between a thirtysomething man and an octogenarian woman, it is a poignant and playful adventure through France where the intention is to send home a collection of postcards that gather together the personal history of the places they visit. JR travels round in a van, that is in fact a camera that prints out giant photographs which he pastes on buildings or walls as they travel through the countryside, to factory plants and Le Havre.

The pair stop at a street in an old mining district that is about to be demolished to meet its last remaining resident, Jeannine. Through their collaging, the pair create a tribute to the miners who once lived there, stirring up all kinds of memories and melancholy locally. They also pay homage to Jeannine by placing her face on the home she must leave.

The film is packed full of moments like this and Varda's typically mischievous spirit and empathy radiates throughout. JR also investigates the filmmaker's life by delving into her body of work, the people she has met along the way and how her blurring vision is affecting her. They visit Henri Cartier-Bresson's grave, honour Guy Bourdin by the seaside, and make an awkward social call on Jean-Luc Godard. Varda and JR truly are irresistible creative explorers, with infectious curiosity and chemistry that fizzes with charm and warmth.

Screening on Sun 25 and Mon 26 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2018. Selected release from Fri 7 Sep.

Faces Places

  • 5 stars
  • 2017
  • France
  • 1h 29min
  • Directed by: JR, Agnès Varda
  • Cast: Agnès Varda, JR
  • UK release: 7 September 2018

Director Agnès Varda and photographer JR go on a road trip through France, intending to send home postcards that gather the history of the places they visit. Varda’s mischievousness and empathy radiate throughout, and the pair’s cross-generational friendship is enriching, inspiring and irrestistible.

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