A film literal to its title, Faces Places unites exceptionally influential artists JR and Agnès Varda as they bring their talents and experiences together into one grand project: visiting villages and towns across France with the sole ambition of creating the loud and aesthetically pleasing visual pieces the photographer is renowned for, whilst also representing the values of empowerment, feminism and social realism so present in the work of the filmmaker. With her two-toned hairdo and his sunglasses-trilby combination, the pair jump into JR’s less-than-appetising camera van (he’s an artist – give him a break) for a superficially impromptu road trip that promises to be a comical yet enlightening journey through memory lane for the then 88-year-old Agnès, provoking scenes of captivating intrigue and immense sentimentality.
Like two peas in a pod, the artists have an on-screen relationship like no other – with chemistry resembling that of a grandmother-grandson connection – whilst also possessing an artistic understanding and respect for each other’s work, fields and ideas. Early in the film, the pair joke about how they first met, playfully enacting a series of stereotypical When Harry Met Sally-style romantic encounters: first when hitchhiking, then at a bakery and better still, at a dance, where the vibrant Varda breaks it down for ultimate entertainment.
There is an unspoken and invisible electricity flashing between the two, creating an insatiable screen presence that beams from both artists and building a sense of belief that the artwork they are leaving in their wake has a greater, more profound purpose than we are perceiving. Interjecting with recollections of her past, Varda frequently gestures toward the harsh reality of a world once she is gone and in what condition she wishes to leave it. Taking the French auteur’s bounty of experience and partnering it with the relatively new vision of JR, Faces Places acts as a tribute to the filmmaker’s life work through the prose of her male travelling companion, inserting a lovely humanistic touch and interpretation to the corrupt modern culture to which unknowing individuals are blind.
The dialogue is scripted but not forced, a wonderful element which is also present in the narrative structure of the documentary and one that strengthens the accuracy of its context. People – whoever they may be and wherever they may come from – are crowned the outstanding focal point of both the art and the feature, something that has been true in the work of both subjects throughout their differing career paths. By leaving a trail of happiness behind them, this picture – their picture – fabulously supported by Matthieu Chedid’s dulcet and melodic soundtrack, will certainly be one to resonate with a number of generations for years to come.
Faces Places is released in select cinemas on 14th September 2018.
Watch the trailer for Faces Places here: