Film Review: Faces Places

Agnès Varda and JR’s Faces Places is a satisfying picture. The film is thought provoking, yet with a wonderfully sprightly texture.

Filmmaker Agnès Varda and artist JR decide to collaborate on a project. The unlikely pair embark on a journey through France, visiting small towns and taking pictures of their inhabitants…

Veteran filmmaker Agnès Varda collaborating with photographer and installation artist JR is an unusual proposition. Nevertheless, Faces Places works exceptionally well. The film functions on multiple levels. Firstly, there is the friendship between the pair. Varda and JR are an odd couple in terms of age, but not in terms of imagination or artistic prowess. There are humorous and touching moments here, as their relationship develops. The film is as much as story about them as it is about their project.

Furthermore, Faces Places is portrait of small-town France. A variety of locales is on display in the film. The slice-of-life style works well, depicting the rural and the industrial, the small town and docks. Varda and JR tell a variety of stories, giving a flavour of different lives without dwelling more than they need to. This gives the film a sense of brevity. 

Also fascinating is Varda’s reminiscing about past collaborators and earlier memories. There are some great callbacks to this, and it is great to see how the pair collaborate to create the new from the old. There is a more sour note involving another filmmaker, yet this is handled amiably. Faces Places does veer off to consider a number of topics, yet this feels perfectly authentic for the type of film it is. 

The documentary gives a great insight into both Varda and JR, in terms of personality and style of working. Their passion for their work comes across distinctly, and their working relationship rewarding. Faces Places offers a window to the affable Varda, and it is most entertaining.