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Ciné Sunday: Faces Places

Agnès Varda, JR

Despite the 50 year gap in the ages of its creators, this film doesn’t feel like an inter-generational art project but instead a wonderful meeting of minds. Veteran filmmaker Agnès Varda (a national treasure at 90 years old) and the hip photographer/ muralist JR share a curiosity about the world which infuses every frame of Faces Places. As they set out on a road trip across France putting up large scale photographic installations, they muse on the meaning of community, history, life, loss and everything in between. 

There is a playfulness which comes across from the very first scene as they describe their first meeting – perhaps in a bakery, on the dance floor or even through a dating site – and it is clear the affection they have for each other is absolutely genuine. JR does not treat his elder collaborator with reverence or with kid gloves: these two are equals. Travelling in JR’s photographic truck, they wander around the country visiting small towns from Aubin to Bonnieux and Pirou-Plage.

In each location they allow themselves to be surprised by the stories which are important to each place. Creating a large-scale mural everywhere they go, they celebrate the last inhabitant in a row of miners’ cottages that is scheduled for destruction; a solitary farmer; a postman who was indispensable to his community; and a trio of dock- workers and their wives. In each of these encounters there is a mixture of joy and sadness. Faces Places captures a sense of time passing, vanishing communities and, for Varda, friends lost and a sense of mortality. This is done with such grace and good humour that you will enjoy every minute of its makers’ company. Tender and warm-hearted (with a small dig at Jean-Luc Godard included) this is a superb new addition to the glorious Varda canon.

Ahead of Faces Places we are presenting an Agnès Varda Season (Sat 1 - Sun 16 September):

Over six decades, Agnès Varda has established herself at the vanguard of world cinema. With her training in art history and her experience as a photographer, Varda continues to push the boundaries of what cinema as an art form can achieve, creating her own singular style by blending reality with poetic imagery, and fiction with documentary. As her latest film, the Oscar-nominated documentary Faces Places, finally graces our screens, we are delighted to celebrate her long career with this showcase of Varda classics.