Joy Ride

Faces Places

Prepare for a long afternoon or evening ahead after you leave the documentary Faces Places.

Faces Places

You were banking on charm, for who wouldn’t be smitten with a road trip featuring Agnès Varda, the 89-year-old artist who helped launch La Nouvelle Vague, and JR, the much younger photographer, famous for his provocative mega-murals? There will be scenes to dissect and favorite personnages to recall. Things could get really animated if you, or someone in your party, is keen to discuss the role of public art. See the documentary solo and you’ll likely wind up a slave to Google for the next few hours. Should you long to spend more time at the kitchen table where Agnès and JR talk shop about artistic vision and vision in general, you’re in luck. A video with reporter Léa Salamé, filmed before  the documentary was released, is shot in Varda’s legendary home on Rue Daguerre.

Good luck reaching consensus about the finest scenes in the film. The French countryside shimmers and so do the men and women who amble over to inspect JR’s photo truck, only to watch as their images are blown up and pasted on a village wall or the side of a barn.

But JR and Agnès don’t limit their errance to rural landscape and its inhabitants.

Following a lively interview, a trio of dockworker’s wives agree to perch on top of a tower of containers. Their images, several stories tall, later dominate the busy port filled mostly with male workers. In another sequence, Varda and JR transform Pirou-Plage, a ghost village of abandoned seaside buildings in Normandy, into a living community that has since been leveled for development.

Which is part of the point. The portraits in Visages Villages, as it’s titled in French, are ephemeral, a lesson we learn when the image of photographer Guy Bourdin disappears from a bunker in Normandy overnight. But ephemera can change the way you see the world, if only for a minute. Say an elderly gentleman is taking his time crossing the street in front of your car. Instead of getting impatient at the long wait, try imagining how a 40-foot portrait of him would transfigure the ugly municipal building en face.

— Linda


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Acknowledgements: @JRart, Cohen Media Group
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