(Your basic fan letter)
Agnes Varda died in 2019 and I was a late-coming fan to her genius. We had the privilege of meeting her briefly at French Institute Alliance Française where we got to see this film. We also got to give her a copy of our short story, “Seamless”!
Agnes Varda is the definition of unstoppable. She’s been quietly re-inventing documentary film-making since the 1960s. Starting out as a photographer, she brings her own unique way of looking at the world to both her documentary work and her feature films. Overshadowed by the Big Hitters of cinema’s New Wave in France as well as her husband, Jacques Demy (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”), she has never stopped exploring the world with her camera, her curiosity, and her humor.
I am an unabashed fan of Agnes Varda and was thrilled to see her speak at the French Alliance in New York City in February 2017 (and give her a copy of our self-published book, “Seamless”).
At the time she was talking about her new film, “Faces, Places”, which I finally got to see. Here she has teamed with French photographer, JR, and they’re driving around the French countryside in his van which is actually a giant camera. Along the way they stop to take portraits of the locals. Super gigantic portraits that are then pasted onto the sides of buildings, shipping containers, houses, barns, and trains. No, the portraits won’t last long and, yes, that’s the point.
But there’s this other mysterious and wonderful thing that has been happening below the surface. It wasn’t until Ms. Varda and JR were on the train heading to meet with Jean-Luc Godard that I realized just how masterfully Varda had been piecing this journey and this film together.
There are layers of meaning and life happening in every frame which will reward repeated viewings. JR must be thanking his lucky stars for this astonishing opportunity to collaborate with one of the most skilled and intuitive filmmakers of the 20th and 21st centuries.
If he’s not, I am. (But I bet he is)