Go see this heart expansive art, story, documentary by two of this worlds best photographic visual artists and filmmakers.
Oscar nominated for Best Documentary in 2018, Visage Villages (Faces Places) by Agnes Varda and JR, I was blown away by their vision of what is possible when life is appreciated through our senses first.
I watched this documentary with my 11 year old daughter, a budding photographic enthusiast and loved when she said at the film’s end, ‘that was a good movie mum. I liked it’.
Chance gave JR, an iconic contemporary photographer/muralist with over a million Instagram followers his first camera. He found it, abandoned on a subway. Destiny introduced him to his biggest idol, legendary filmmaker, director, writer, visual artist, Agnes Varda.
Together, their love of imagery, of capturing the beauty of story in art and the story in impermanent faces resulted in their outstanding French documentary – Visage Villages (Faces Places).
What they do with a simple black and white selfie is sheer artistic magic. As the pair travel through rural France ensconced in JR’s incredible photo truck– an instamatic camera on wheels – they unearth the extraordinary in the ordinary story rich faces of rural French villagers.
JR (34) dangling like a dapper clad Spiderman scales colossal heights on scaffolding – think six shipping containers high –with acrobatic ease he pastes up giant scale photographs, high upon walls.
Just as the edges of a face blur in recollection and memory, there is a sense of urgency as Varda and Jr attempt to make permanent a shifting landscape of time.
Through a photograph, Varda and JR immortalise the fragile impermanence of the face, that one moment in photographic time where the face and body stand heroic, silent in their quest to guard the permanent, to remain emeshed within the bricks and concrete of industry and remembered.
None more tellingly shown than in the pasting of a young Guy Bourdin, pasted low tide, on a beach in Normandy, onto an abandoned German blockhouse, . Varda (89) had spent time with Guy, shooting the image back in the ’50s.
The image has survived over six decades but the following morning when Varda and JR return, the blockhouse and beach remain, forever mismatched together, but the image, washed away overnight has vanished.
Everything is always changing. Varda and JR remind us that permanence exists in engraving and appreciating the present moment. Great art and film after all is all art that lives on, either in form, or in the way it affects us when we greet it.
There are surprising, great and unexpected stories in the worlds behind the faces we meet, worlds we know little about of the lives and stories of French villages, workers and farmers.
Like a goat farmer who bucks convention by refusing to burn off her goats’ horns at birth.
Or the speechless tears of a woman – pasted street front upon her home – the last inhabitant in a row of miner’s houses. The miners have vanished but their homes stand heroically stoic and although abandoned and crumbling, the row of houses unite as constant reminders of stories past.
Time and chance are lead roles within the documentary, Varda and JR had no plan other than to meet the people of the landscape and to let them, their amazing personal stories and the landscape dictate the mood and feeling of the art and documentary.
Within Visage Villages (Faces Places), Varda and JR supercharged with the power of improvisation, triumph in their tender exploration of human lives. Varda and JR embed the faces and places of rural France within our psyches and as with great art, these images haunt and remain.
Written, Directed and commented by Agnes Varda and JR
Executive Producer Rosalie Varda
Associate Producer Emile Abinal
Co-Producers Julie Gayet and Nadia Turincev, Charles S. Cohen Nichole Fu, Etienne Comar
Images with thanks from Pinterest