Masters

Faces Places

Agnès Varda, JR

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French master Agnès Varda collaborates with mysterious street artist JR in this wondrous travelogue, in which the duo travel through small villages in the French countryside and immortalize the faces of those they meet in immense public murals.

A treasure of global cinema, Agnès Varda makes films alive with curiosity and playfulness. Now in her eighties, she is the world's most youthful filmmaker. Her latest nonfiction film is an inspired collaboration with JR, the mysterious French street artist. Like many of Varda's works, Faces Places is a kind of travelogue in which the wonder of each locale visited is only as potent as the populace whose existence affects it.

The modus operandi is simple: Varda and JR roam from place to place in JR's truck, which is decorated to resemble a camera. In each place they visit, they meet people — coal miners, cheese makers, a Herculean farmer — and JR creates immense monochromatic portraits of them. Our endearing duo then affixes these portraits to various edifices. Quite literally, faces merges with places, or, to cite the film's original French title, visage merges with village. The landscape Varda and JR traverse becomes a record of encounters. The cumulative effect is transcendent.

Among Faces Places most amusing refrains is Varda's annoyance at JR's refusal to remove his sunglasses, which she says reminds her of Jean-Luc Godard in the '60s. Near the film's end Varda and JR actually pay a visit to Godard. The contrast between Varda's French New Wave cohort, who represents her tremendous six-decade legacy, and JR, who embodies her vibrant present, speaks volumes about the scope of this amazing auteur's durability and persistence of vision.

CAMERON BAILEY

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