Agnes Varda is a pioneering film director of the French New Wave, blazing a trail for women in cinema. In Faces, Places she has teamed up with JR, a photographer who works on a huge scale, involving communities in the creation of public art.
The film’s loose documentary style works well to flesh out their open-ended project.
The idea was to travel around France and put up huge photographs of the people they meet. It’s a wonderful technique that gives a sense of significance to ordinary lives.
They visit a mining area where the old terraced
red-brick houses are going to be demolished. They paste archive photos of local miners onto the walls, as tall as the houses.
As they travel the country in their camera van, the focus of the film drifts too. The thoughts of people they meet float across the screen, and the relationship between the artists develops.
This would be a thoroughly delightful film if it wasn’t so white. In 90 minutes there are only two scenes with black people in them, and only one speaking part.
It gives the impression that only white people inhabit France. I looked up the work of JR afterwards and he’s done some fantastic anti-racist work. You can see them on his website jr-art.net.
Faces, places Directed by Agnes Varda. Out on 21 September