Faces Places Screen 92 of 26 reviews

Faces Places

2017

Faces Places Poster
  • People used to use the term “second childhood” for a certain, declining phase of old age, but Varda has, for years, been giving that term a meaning of her own... [Varda and JR] demonstrate that artists can be serious about the world and about intervening in it, but they don’t necessarily have to be “solitary philosophers.” As this breezy, politically and humanistically generous film shows, they can be gregarious playmates too.

  • The sense of loss that many of these subjects confront, the sense of resistance to unwelcome change that others display, makes “Faces Places” essentially elegiac, a snatching of vitality and consolation in a race against the ultimate loss and oblivion, death. Yet the movie remains warm, lighthearted, enthusiastic, even celebratory.

  • Agnes Varda is almost 90 years old and she is still making films. That alone should be cause for dancing in the streets. But wait, there’s more: Agnes Varda is almost 90 years old and she is still making fantastic films. Searching, compassionate, provocative, funny, sad ones. This is one of them. You should see it, and then go dancing in the streets.

  • Varda, who ingeniously and matter-of-factly documents her own memory lapses using filmed sequences to replace the memory of incidents she has forgotten, is educating JR in transmitting and restoring memory. The movie bears witness to a profound and subtle change in his work, a change wrought not by will, but through their evolving relationship.

  • JR’s signature enormous black-and-white images, wheat-pasted on a variety of surfaces, of the people he and Varda encounter in villages like Bonnieux and cities such as Le Havre ensure that their interlocutors—miners, barmaids, dockworkers—will remain indelible. A sweet, but never cloying, portrait of an intergenerational friendship and artistic collaboration, Faces Places is also a matter-of-fact meditation on mortality.

  • Age is just a number, and no hindrance to the friendship between 88-year-old filmmaker Agnès Varda and 33-year-old photographer JR. The duo act like cosmically preordained soulmates throughout Faces Places, a superb collaborative documentary... The wives of three dockworkers have their colossal photos placed onto stacked shipping containers (each of the women then sits, movingly, within their own towering image, in a space corresponding to their heart).

  • Varda’s mastery of structure comes through in her nearly peerless ability to invite us into a train of thought, always rigorously edited into a swift, intuitive flow... JR may set off twee alarm bells at first, but he quickly assuages any fedora-induced anxieties with his humanistic artistic outlook and practice; as with Varda’s previous work, the film derives its power from engaged interactions and heartfelt gestures, transcending cliché by generating an unquantifiable emotional trust.

  • Faces, unsurprisingly, are vital to the achievement of the wonderful documentary Faces Places... The spirit of the nouvelle vague persists in Varda’s ongoing commitment to spontaneity and collaboration. Now 88 years of age, Varda might seem an odd match for the 33-year-old JR... But they have the streets in common – for JR, they are the world’s largest gallery; for Varda, a vast film set. What unfolds... is a shared vision of art and the world.

  • As Varda says early in the film, chance has always been her best assistant. Faces Places, then, registers as a profound meditation on the compulsion some artists feel to make their work, and its completion, indistinguishable from the day-to-day actions and recollections of their own lives.

  • In this breezy and affecting pendant to her splendid Beaches of Agnès, Varda continues a profound exploration of creativity and memory in the face of mortality and impermanence... Varda may be struggling with an eye disease, but her vision is as crystalline as ever.

  • ++

    Film Comment: Wang Muyan
    September 03, 2017 | September/October 2017 Issue (pp. 24-25)

    Hand in hand, Varda and JR leap over that gap in age and achieve a comprehensive collaboration: JR's street art combines with Varda's art of montage (and photography) to create a lively and poignant variation on her legendary cinema. Faces Places is a work about memory, friendship, the life and death of people, and the nature of life itself. The film reestablishes—as in so much of Varda's art—that the smaller the subject seems, the greater the film can be.

  • Varda and JR take an equally inquisitive approach to their provincial settings and the personalities they encounter during their travels. There’s the church-bell ringer, the cheesemakers, the truck drivers, and even JR’s own aging grandmother, whom the two visit in a touching moment of multi-generational accord. Without dipping into sentimentality, the film casually accumulates an emotional magnitude that fills to bursting by its final two episodes.

  • A film about the injection of large metropolitan forms into small villages could easily be tokenistic. Yet Varda and JR get to know each of their subjects before taking the photograph, situating the person within their landscape. They become engaged in local politics, exploring the wide spectrum of viewpoints that exist in villages usually painted in homogenous provincial shades by city-dwellers.

  • An upbeat celebration of community and creativity, it gains substance from its asides on the effects of age and time’s passing – including, painfully, the apparent loss of an old friend.

  • In the hands of anyone else, this portrait of provincial people and an unlikely friendship might have resulted something thin and inconsequential. Instead, it’s a poetic window into the process of creation, an ode to the elevation of the ordinary, and a primer on the way to live.

  • It’s an exquisite, achingly moving nonfiction ramble on memory and history, cats and goats, in which JR and Ms. Varda, a vigorous 88, wander from one French hamlet to the next while rummaging through the past, summoning up old loves and searching for lost friends.

  • In Varda's magnificent, groundbreaking, nearly 60-year career, this is one of her most profoundly personal and exuberantly populist works. A tour de France that is both a romp and a meditation on photography, cinema, and mortality, with brief appearances by Mimi, the scene-stealing cat, it is at once poetry and the naked truth, shape-shifting before one’s eyes, and promising ever more pleasure with each viewing.

  • That the tone of the film is mostly breezy and charming leaves you quite unprepared for the sharp, brutal jab of its ending – a surprise that I won’t ruin here. The only nagging sense of sadness that permeates their capers throughout is the spectre of Varda’s increasing mortality as she struggles to mount stairs or to see clearly. Her indefatigable spirit invariably triumphs, though.

  • It’s a journey to celebrate people and places, and to just look at life beyond the city. The couple idolise the workers and artisans, but also celebrate the women behind the men. And at the point that you think this film has settled on its agreeably cosy laurels, one final big trick is revealed... In that astounding final sequence Varda takes serious stock of her life, expressing sadness that her physical ailments have prevented her from maintaining a valuable dialogue with the people she loves.

  • Just about anything or anyone, if recorded and publicly displayed, can become art. That's the idea at the core of this heartwarming doc—or should I say, one of many. It's also about age and youth, the relationship between the past and the present, shifting cultures in modern times, and what an asshole Jean-Luc Godard is. It's a testament to Varda's gaze that she's still looking for and finding life all around her.

  • From the opening-credit animation onward, this delightful, digressive, breezy collaboration, staged to look more spontaneous than it possibly could be, celebrates and enhances both artists, repeatedly finding the extraordinary in the ordinary and growing more reflective and melancholy only in its Swiss epilogue. For Varda, this is a spinoff of sorts to The Gleaners and I(2000) and The Beaches of Agnès (2008); for me it was a welcome introduction to the work of JR.

  • Of course, this element of time, the erosion of all things, is precisely where Varda's cinema intersects with JR's photography project. A sage observer of her own mortality, Varda chooses to meet as many people as she can, to engage with the ever-shifting world, and meet it on her own terms. She eyesight may be failing, but she accepts that blurriness is not the phenomenological essence of her vision, and works with it as is.

  • Unfolding as a series of thrift-shop-find vignettes, Faces Places has oodles of charm and moments of beauty, but lacks the essayistic point-of-view of Varda’s best documentaries.

  • The film seems like it could begin and end at any point. Where it _does_ end, hilariously, is a plot point instigated by (no spoilers) Jean-Luc Godard acting like a petulant jerk. That this was the moment the plot shifted cracked me up to no end — it seems entirely staged, but also entirely consistent with his character. The person sitting next to me in the screening room shot me a very curious glance as to why this made me lose it so hard; if you have to have it explained, it won’t make sense.

  • Delighting in graphic matches and threads of thoughts, Varda’s editing participates in an almost Surrealist collaboration with chance, her free-form inquiries developing with a kind of daisy chain logic wherein she fumbles toward accepting the inevitable finality of her life... Never approaching anything minutely morose, this is a movie that revels gleefully in the fact that we get to share our existence with other things and beings.

  • Thirty-something artist and photographer JR proved a pernicious influence on Agnès Varda in their film Faces Places, as she accompanies him on his journey through a relentlessly chirpy version of France, taking mammoth photos of members of the public and expressing precisely the necessary amount of interest in them to get the reaction shot needed after said photos are hung up on some big building.

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