Faces Places (Visages Villages)

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 Written, Directed and Commented by: Agnes Varda and JRFaces Places

Executive Producer: Rosalie Varda

Associate Producer: Emile Abinal

Co-Producers: Julie Gayet and Nadia Turincev, Charles S. Cohen, Nichole Fu, Etienne Comar.

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.

And then JR (34) dangling like a dapper clad Spiderman scales colossal heights hanging from scaffolding – think six shipping containers high –with acrobatic ease he pastes up giant scale photographs, high upon walls.

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.

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.

None more tellingly shown than in the pasting of a young Guy Bourdin, up onto an abandoned German blockhouse, at low tide, on a beach in Normandy. Varda (89) had spent time with Guy, shooting the image back in the ’50s. The image has survived over six decades but as Varda and JR return the following morning the blockhouse and the beach remain, forever mismatched together but the image, washed away overnight, has vanished.

Everything is always changing. Great art and film is all art that lives on either in form or in the way it affects us when we meet it. Varda and JR remind us that moments don’t last but permanence exists in engraving and appreciating the present moment.

There are great, surprising and unexpected stories revealed in the worlds behind the faces, of the French villages, workers and farmers, worlds we know little about.

Like the 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 now abandoned, crumbling and decrepit remain, heroically stoic, reminding us of their stories.

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. 

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Author: Simmon Wagner

The thing I love most about what I do - is the diversity from writing professional fashion articles, short film scripts, movie reviews and my first novel a psychological-thriller. A writer trained in Journalism, fashion design, as a chef and a Private Investigator, seeking authenticity and curiosity in the world of writing, art, film, wellness and fashion.

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