Oscar-nominated documentary plays at the Detroit Film Theater this weekend
“Faces Places” is a lively, fun, stirring tribute to art and its ability to touch people and bring souls together.
French filmmaker Agnès Varda, 88 years young at the time of filming, teams up with photographer and street artist JR, more than a half century her junior, to work on, well, they’re not quite sure. Their collaboration is open-ended, and they decide they’ll figure it out as the documentary unfolds. Varda explains her greatest inspiration comes from encounters with strangers, from hearing their stories and studying their faces. So they hit the road, traveling throughout France and meeting people along the way.
They drive in JR’s mobile photo booth, outfitted to look like an old camera. The vehicle is equipped with a printer that spits out oversize photos, which they plaster onto available public spaces. In so doing, they tell the stories of the people they encounter in the villages through which they pass, and bring out pieces of the humanity in their subjects and themselves.
Varda and JR have a warm chemistry. They knew of each other, but they had never met, and they get to know each other on the road as they work. JR keeps his hat and glasses on at all times, it’s part of his artist persona. Varda prods him to remove the glasses, to fully reveal himself to her, which becomes a major theme in the project.
“Faces Places” is a trust fall: not even the subjects know what they’re getting into at the offset, but because of who they are, they know it will be interesting. It winds up being a transcendent journey, with Varda and JR an unlikely pair of tour guides through the French countryside and beyond.
Rated PG for brief nude images and thematic elements
Running time: 88 minutes