Faces Pace Review- Visages Villages
By Christian Tsoutsouvas
Visages Villages (Faces Places) is an enchanting road documentary following a collaboration between veteran filmmaker Agnès Varda and young photographer/muralist J.R. The pair have written and directed this account of their artistic project to travel together through rural France, meeting interesting people along the way and asking them if they’d like to have their photograph taken and plastered on the walls of their homes and workplaces for all to see. Happily, more than enough of them said “yes” (or at least “why not”) to provide enough material for a charming 90-minute human interest documentary.
The duo’s subjects are a beautiful assortment of waiters, miners, truck drivers, factory workers, office workers, farmers, introverts and extroverts, women and men, young, old and everything in between. If there’s a common thread between them, it’s that none of them seem to be used to people taking an interest in them. They’re certainly not used to seeing their faces on a mural, or on the big screen for that matter.
Perhaps the most poignant interview and artwork of the lot takes place at the docks of Le Havre with the wives of three of the workers there. Of all the places they visit, Le Havre seems to be the place that Agnès knows the best, certainly well enough to know that the wives of the dockworkers are the most overlooked people in the whole town. Given the
space to present themselves and all that they are, these three women are, I would say, the second most captivating subjects we are treated to here.
The first are definitely the artists themselves: the prolific, near-90-year-old French Wave director and the 34-year-old artist who she desperately wants to photograph, but whose impenetrable sunglasses will never be taken off. Theirs is one of the sweetest “unlikely friendships” I’ve seen on screen in a while. For Australian audiences, perhaps the best comparison is Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton. One’s much older and more experienced, the other is much younger but just as confident. One has all the technical know-how while the other leads the way in human instincts. However, you’ll find that one of these parallels won’t necessarily correspond with another. As we see over the course of the documentary, age doesn’t always bring cynicism, just as youth doesn’t always bring idealism. One moment the two of them will clash and the next they’ll agree with each other wholeheartedly. Theirs is the perfect onscreen partnership, all the more special because it’s unscripted. Obviously not all of the words they say on camera are spontaneous and they might not be the greatest voice actors, but you can still feel their connection to themselves and to their art at every level of this wonderful film.
Somehow these two artists have managed to make a documentary about themselves that is neither self-indulgent nor pretentious, most likely because it’s as much about them as it is about the people they meet along the way.
Faces Places is in cinemas now.