Director Agnés Varda doesn’t run out of steam. “Faces Places,” shown at the 55th annual New York Film Festival and already in commercial release, is as lovely a film as she has ever made. I’ve been reviewing her films since way back, and it is gratifying to see that at the age of 88 she has come through yet again with a film consistently delightful to watch.
She has as her accomplice in traveling through various parts of France the photographer and her co-director known as JR, who is only 34, but who appears thoroughly in tune with his older collaborator. Together they photograph and interview a wide variety of people, and thereby provide a portrait of faces and places, as in the title.
The approach is extremely low-key, which enables them to get intimate portraits. They are amusing in themselves, JR with sun glasses, and Varda looking spry and engaging as she dominates the assorted inquiries.
The film also has a fine perspective, paying special attention to women. My favorite sequence was at a dock loading operation where we meet the men doing the heavy lifting. But we also meet their wives, who are spotlighted in a unique way. Their photographs are blown up to spectacular heights and displayed against piles of crates, thereby dwarfing the men who look miniscule posing in front of the super-size portraits. Doesn’t that say something?
There is a prickly segment when Varda decides to visit her fellow New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. But when she gets to his door, she finds that he has left a dismissive note, which she deems insulting and angering. It is a moment in the film in which she appears visibly upset.
In one sense “Faces Places” is a travelogue. But in another, it reflects the very human approach to life and her art that Varda has generally taken. Here, abetted by JR, Varda, continues to demonstrate her skill and fertile imagination. May her career continue! A Cohen Media Group release. Reviewed October 6, 2017.