Two witty artists – photographer JR and legendary filmmaker Agnès Varda – collaborate on this joyful documentary about communities and memory that proves deeply moving by its conclusion
We would follow Agnès Varda anywhere, but tagging along with the octogenarian filmmaker on a breezy journey across rural France for this whimsical documentary proves particularly rewarding. She’s joined on the trip by JR, a 33-year-old photographer with more than a passing resemblance to Varda’s old mucker Godard, thanks mainly to a pair of sunglasses that never leave his face. The shades mean JR’s view on the world is tinted, while Varda’s own eyes are starting to falter; her filmmaking vision, however, remains pin-sharp and vibrant.
Travelling in JR’s truck-cum-giant camera, the pair skip from town-to-town taking huge-scale photographs of ordinary people, from a trio of dockers’ wives to the last resident of a row of miners’ cottages due for demolition. These huge images are then fly-posted on to local buildings, turning their subjects into icons. Like many of Varda’s docs (The Gleaners and I, The Beaches of Agnès), Faces Places is also about another icon: Varda herself. She may be barely five feet in her cotton socks, but this moving study of community and memory reminds us she’s a colossus too.