Faces Places (2017)

Faces Places (2017)

With a career spanning decades, Varda has produced a series of films known for blurring the lines of narrative and documentary storytelling—an approach that paved the way for her to craft to become more nuanced and intimate in later years.

It can be said that Agnès Varda has lived and breathed documentary filmmaking, having been a driving force during the French New Wave alongside the likes of Jean Luc-Godard, Alain Resnais, Jacques Demy, Francois Truffaut, and Andre Bazin.

Through her cinematic lens that grapples with subjects concerning the rights of women and marginalized groups, Varda has inspired countless contemporary filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, Guillermo Del Toro, and Edgar Wright.

Beyond these accolades, Varda can be described as someone who lived her life to its fullest, continuing to create movies until her untimely death in 2019. One of her most significant works, produced in the latter years of her career, is a poignant documentary entitled Faces Places, which she co-directed with young filmmaker JR.

The film follows Varda and JR as they visit village communities throughout France, meeting with people along the way and volunteering to create public portraits. Throughout their adventure, the pair reflects on past relationships and friendships, shedding light on the ways in which art can fill the void in those yearning for human connection.

The best thing about Faces Places, beyond its moments of simplicity, is how sincerely and humbly it presents the two main leads and their many acts of kindness. In their little ways, Varda and JR unknowingly become two magicians who immortalise memories and forgotten people. It is a magnificent celebration of the wide-reaching impacts of art, as well as a heartfelt tale of the friends we make and lose along the way. Near the end of the film, Varda seeks to organise a reunion with an old friend, only to be directly declined without any sincere excuse. It is a surprisingly sad moment in a predominately joyous film, but it served as a pivotal event for Varda in developing a stronger friendship with JR.

Faces Places ends with JR, who throughout the film wears sunglasses, unmasking his true self to Varda by removing them. Varda is slowly blinding due to old age, and after a trip spent plastering images on different walls and backgrounds, she realises the image of her friend might be the most important one to imprint upon herself.