Faces Places – Review
by Martina Hysi
It is hard to know what to make of Agnes Varda’s latest work Faces Places. Do not sit down with popcorn to watch it – bring a notebook with you. This will be unlike any documentary you have ever watched: you will struggle to believe this is not dramatically scripted. It is a film that will remind you of old things you have not thought about for a long time.
Imagine a tiny, visibly old woman sporting a bowl cut, with a completely white top ending in a fringe dyed in a deep brick red color. Sitting next to and dwarfing her, is a tall young man in a black trench-coat, a hat and dark sunglasses, like a character from a noir novel. These are Agnes Varda and JR. Their comical but endearing appearance establishes the visual basis of this film: incongruity. We follow this strange fellowship across an astonishing array of sights, including a beach impaled by a concrete bunker embedded in it like a piece of contemporary sculpture. It is so windy there that the sand sweeps up to envelop our duo in a beige mist. This is only a small testament to the ethereal beauty of the film’s cinematography.
Agnes Varda is 90 years old, and she is still making movies. She is an indispensable part of the patrimony of global cinema. It seems only fitting that, in this documentary, she teams up with a young photographer to recapture the patrimony of simple, French village life. Together they paste their pictures on walls, container ships, factories, wherever they can. As the couple skips from town to town, we revisit her lifetime of making art, her earnest, friendly approach to her subjects. Faces Places is another piece of art that engages in open and heartbreaking discussions of death. What I like, is that it does so in an honest, inspiring way that is not sad – it is just the way of things.