European films

Faces Places film review: Agnès Varda and JR form odd couple in playful yet poignant documentary

Join celebrated director Varda on her Oscar-nominated road trip through rural France with visual artist JR, where the humorous pair leave their mark not only on those they meet but on their surroundings, too

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 7:18am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 9:43am

3.5/5 stars

The latest documentary in the career of the unstoppable Agnès Varda is a playful but poignant road trip through rural France. Varda, the pint-sized filmmaker whose work stretches back to the French New Wave, journeys with visual artist JR in a van to enjoy some random encounters with everyday folk. Together, they make the sweetest odd couple pairing.

With her distinct two-tone bowl haircut, Varda is a fine contrast to JR, wearing his hipster shades which he never removes – reminiscent of Varda’s old friend Jean-Luc Godard, whom she knew when she was married to Jacques Demy. Along the way, they bicker but also have fun – notably recreating the Louvre sequence in Godard’s Band of Outsiders with Varda in a wheelchair.

Agnès Varda on Faces Places, being a feminist, and her Hong Kong visits

Encountering everyone from cheesemakers to truck drivers and farmers as they travel from village to village, Varda and JR leave their mark not only on those they meet but on their surroundings. In the van is a photo booth and printing facility, allowing JR’s images to be blown up and plastered over surfaces, like Varda’s tiny feet snapped and displayed on an oil tanker.

For all the fun interplay, there’s a sense that Varda is feeling her age; she tells off JR for referring to one of her “old” friends (she prefers the phrase “long-time”). She laments losing touch with Godard, and a surprise visit to his house in Switzerland yields disappointment. If Faces Places is a reckoning with her past, then it does so in a unique and charming way.

Faces Places opens on June 21

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