This time around, Angela dug around and came up with a recent documentary that turned out to be the final feature film (co-)directed by the great French New Wave auteur Agnès Varda, in collaboration with a perpetually bespectacled gentleman known only as JR, who has a small number of documentaries/shorts to his name but appears to be better known as an imaginative French street artist.  Through a small bit of luck, the wordplay of the original title can be quite adequately mimicked in the English version “Faces Places”, but as a non-French speaker I think it’s not too hard – and a tiny bit more precise – to stick with the original title Visages Villages.

So is that Jordan, or LeBron?

There’s not a huge amount of narrative thread to Visages Villages – the camera follows the burgeoning and somewhat unlikely friendship between late octogenarian director Varda and modern street artist JR as they travel through rural France and collaborate on JR’s large-form photo murals.

“Lancelot, Bedevere, and I will emerge from the camera…Launcelot, Bedevere, and I…we can build a giant cell phone!”

JR has a distinctive van which has a very large (though unless I forgot anything B&W only) photo printer in it, and the typical new art installation involved pasting images of locals onto their own homes, or in their towns or workplaces.

I don’t know what He’s thinking, He brought four MORE loaves…and you should see the fishes!

We get to see the discussions that Varda and JR have between each other, as well as their interactions with the various townspeople.  It can get a bit reflective about rural life, or about Varda’s aging and decline (she passed away only two years after the film was released).

It’s Quentin Tarantino’s “A Band Apart”!

But it’s not entirely street art. The two filmmakers also create some homages to earlier works, such as a recreation of Godard’s race through the Louvre in 1964’s Bande à part, though this time with more wheelchair.


It was nice of them to leave the É-Ê-È trick trio out

Varda also alludes to a famous scene in Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou while getting a medical injection into her eye (shown, but not above, because errrrrrk!)

Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away

Of course there’s my favorite photo mural, a copy of a picture taken of a friend of Varda’s nearby decades earlier pasted onto a fallen German cliffside bunker on one of the beaches of Normandy. This was at low tide, but sadly high tide washed the image away entirely. Ars longa, vita brevis unfortunately did not apply here.

Do these cargo doors make my butt look big?

But for the most part it’s photos, the largest of which were these, images of the wives of three dock workers on the shipping containers at Le Havre, which at a standard 8.5 foot height for shipping containers would appear to be pushing 50 feet high.

And really, while there were at least a good half-dozen installations that I didn’t mention, that recaps most of what happens in the film.  At the very end, the two filmmakers are stood up for an interview by the reclusive (and aforementioned) Godard, and Varda finally convinces JR to remove his sunglasses so she can see his eyes – but the view is for Varda alone and not for us.

In the end it’s a visually evocative film, and well worth seeing, but it lacks the coherent focus to make it particularly compelling.  I was more or less glued to the screen during the film, but the only thing that will really stay with me are the images.  All else has already washed away like Varda’s friend at Normandy.