Agnes Varda, a heroine of mine from the New Wave and beyond is still challenging herself, looking forward. At 89, she is truly a force of nature.
And yet: Varda looks back to the past as well. Her newest film, Faces Places, an ingenious collaboration with photographer/muralist JR, has as a point of departure her desire to meet new people and hear their stories, beginning with JR himself. Varda and JR visit the last inhabitant of a condemned miner’s dwelling, an independent farmer, a mother of two, a cheese maker, three wives of dockworkers, slowly piecing together their stories while writing them large on the sides of silos, buildings, containers. JR’s camera-on-wheels which blows things up so that we can really see them, slowly makes its way towards Varda's own infirmities (her eyes), and her friends and colleagues: (the tombs of) photographers Henri Cartier Bresson and Martine Franck, photographer Guy Bourdin, and in the end, Jean Luc Godard, erstwhile collaborator and friend, who after agreeing to meet her does not show up or even answer his door when she calls.
Though it goes dark as her revenge is to show this depressing episode in the film, it is still as inspiring a document as one could find. JR, who has insisted on wearing his hat and sunglasses throughout (very much like Godard always did) despite Varda’s pleas to remove them so she can really see him, finally does so once he sees how upset she is by Godard’s betrayal. Godard was quoted as saying all you need for a film is a girl and a gun. Well, he’s got them here.
How we reveal ourselves to the world, how others see us, how we age, how we grow up, how we maintain our old friendships (or do not), all this is present as we journey with these two very talented, insatiably curious artists.