MOVIE: FACES PLACES
STARRING: AGNES VARDA; JR
DIRECTED BY: AGNES VARDA; JR
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
There are so many places one could begin with Faces Places, the new film from cinema legend Agnes Varda and the art muralist/photographer JR. Perhaps, I should just express how full my heart was from the opening credits, where the film begins with an adorable animated intro, followed by not how these two came together, but instead a few staged sequences where the pair didn’t meet at all, missing one another in a bakery, walking in opposite directions on an open road, or never turning around at a disco to notice they’re dancing on the same floor. Soon after, we are magically whisked away into the documentary that is Faces Places, which is not so much a documentary focused about anything in particular, but a film about everything good that life has to offer. Faces Places is an irreplaceable masterpiece. It is the film that everyone should see because frankly, the world is too awful to miss something this good.
Truth be told, I had not seen a single Agnes Varda film till Faces Places. Obviously I have been missing out on a lot. Her films have received massive praise, from Vagabond, Cleo From 5 to 7, to The Gleanders & I. All of the work transcending the art of French cinema, the boundaries for women in film, and documentary filmmaking. If you are not familiar with her now, she is currently 89 years of age and will be 90 this coming May. The crown of her head is a bright white and the bottom half of her mushroom hair is a maroon red. And she is the most amazing person I have ever seen on film. There is no stopping this woman, as the film chronicles her and JR roaming along the French countryside, meeting people, and finding great beauty in what people have to offer. My face hurt from how much Faces Places made me smile.
The other subject of the film is the French artist JR. His art is often abstract, but it’s beautiful in that it highlights the things we don’t pause to look at enough of. His murals are typically of peoples eyes, or larger than life images of people, as he plasters them on the side of water silos or rolling freight trains. Throughout the film Agnes constantly pesters him about his inability to remove his sunglasses, which at this point are a part of his costume. His rapport with Varda is equal to the relationship two great friends share, or a son to his mother, or a genuine platonic love shared between two lovers of life.
You may be asking, what is Faces Places exactly about? The answer is humanity. The people we meet along the journey range from a local farmer in town, three women who are married to men who work in a storage container yard, to a beautiful woman who works at a small cafe. The most fascinating scene is when they visit a woman living in the last home left to not be vacated by coal mining families. As JR plasters her entire face on the outside of the dwelling, we see the very soul of this woman, representing exactly how much a home can mean to those that have lived in it.
I hope my words are doing justice to how beautiful a film Faces Places is. The unlikely pairing of these two artists is a kind of magic that becomes near impossible to describe. Varda is a bright shining light, bringing an energy that I only hope to have when I reach her age. And it’s not all pretty and perfect, as there are moments of sadness, where Varda expresses her regrets of relationships with other directors she has worked with, past lovers, and missed opportunities. Yet, she has found an amazing friend along the way in JR, whose work seems to inspire another 100 years in Varda. The journey is an inspiration, the kind where your glad these two recorded it all to take us along for the ride. Faces Places is more than a documentary. It’s more than an experience. It’s the kind of film that makes you believe there is still plenty of life to live for.
Written by: Leo Brady