Faces Places movie still of JR & Agnès Varda

Faces Places

Faces Places is a delightful, humanity-celebrating documentary that follows 89-year-old director Agnès Varda and 33-year-old guerrilla street artist JR on a mobile art project through rural France.

4 out of 5 stars

Review: (rolanstein)
Worthy winner of Best Documentary at Cannes this year, French film Face Places tracks the progress of 89-year-old director Agnès Varda and 33-year-old guerrilla street artist JR, as they collaborate on a mobile art project that takes them on a road trip through rural France.

Travelling in a van done up to look like a giant camera, the unlikely and rather eccentric-looking pair chat to people they encounter en route, some of whom agree to participate in the project by having their photographic images displayed as enlarged black and white prints pasted up on whatever surfaces of the local environment present as appropriate: walls, barns, dockside shipping containers, water tanks, railway carriages…

Thus, in involving random local people (eg: farmers, miners, wharfies’ wives) as collaborators and subjects, and exhibiting in their local environments, Varda and JR take art out of the rarefied atmosphere of urban galleries and into the rural community. Work and artist, subject and exhibition fuse. If that sounds wanky, be assured it’s really not – to which the responses of the impressed down-to-earth locals bear testimony. Indeed some, including an elderly woman who is the last remaining resident in an abandoned mining town, are moved to tears when contemplating their images as public art.

The most dramatic of the pair’s murals features a print of a young deceased colleague of Varda’s sitting in the crook of a concrete WW2 German bunker that has tumbled from a cliff and lodged corner-down in the sand below. Nature intervenes with a poignant and philosophically profound statement when the tide washes off the mural overnight.

The unifying thread that runs through the film is the developing relationship between Varda and JR, who discover that while generations apart they have much in common and share a mutual respect for each other as artists. This doesn’t stop them paying out on each other from time to time, to humorous effect.

Faces Places is one of those rare, humanity-celebrating films that will have you beaming from start to finish. It’s a perfect all-ages opener for the 2017-18 Lotterywest Perth International Film Festival. Don’t miss.


Faces Places (original title Visages, Villages) features: JR, Agnès Varda, the people of rural France
Writer/Directors: JR, Agnès Varda
Runtime: 89 min

Faces Places screening dates (2017-18 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival):
UWA Somerville: Mon 27 Dec-Sun 3 Dec 2017 8pm
ECU Joondalup Pines: Tue 4–Sun 9 Apr 2017, 8pm

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