Like a delicious camembert with honey, the film Visages Villages (Faces Places) was definitely cheesy but pleasantly sweet at the same time. We follow the unlikely duo of director Agnès Varda and artist JR, as they travel throughout France, capturing the faces of those they encounter. The project all began in 2015, when Agnès and JR decided to collaborate on the film because of their mutual admiration of each other’s work and their common appreciation of imagery. Agnès’ experience and talent in filmmaking combined with JR’s artistic eye and vibrant personality created a limitless canvas that spanned across France. It is the element of humanity which gives this film its essence, but it is the strong characters that give it personality.
The director, Agnès Varda has been making films since 1955, when she released her first film, La Pointe Courte. Throughout her career, in addition to directing, she has acted, produced, narrated, written, and edited countless films and received many awards. In 2017, it was announced that she will receive an Academy Honorary Award for her contributions to cinema and in 2015 she was awarded the honorary Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. At the age of 89 years, she has said that Visages Villages will be her last film and the conclusion to her remarkable career in cinema.
JR is a well-known French street artist that is known for his open air galleries that he installs wherever he deems fit. His work had been exhibited around the world, most recently between the boarder to Mexico and USA. This most recent installation, which is visible from the US side of the border, is a photo of one year old boy who is curiously looking over the wall. This political piece begs the question, what is the future of our world and of our children. The placement of JR’s photography is as important as the photos themselves, and he is very meticulous in his selection and was quoted for saying, “Some people dream about fantasy worlds, I dream about walls.” His creativity, talent and unwavering passion have gained recognition world-wide, as he continues to pursue his mission of creating perspective.
Agnès and JR’s journey was inspired by the desire to meet the individuals that serve as the unseen pillars of their society. In the introduction to the idea, Agnès explains that she simply desires to see more faces and profit in the time she has left in this world. JR was driven by his desire to develop his artistic mission in addition to his love of meeting new personalities. Therefore, JR and Agnès set out to meet and capture the faces of the people that they met along the route. The unscripted itinerary and spur of the moment decisions bring the duo to unlikely places where they meet a variety of personalities. Throughout their journey, they cross paths with some interesting individuals, listen to their stores, learn of their experiences and capture them in the moment. With help from the camera booth, which is built into their truck, they travel and paste the photographs of individuals that inspire them upon barns, walls, fences, buildings, ruins and many other surfaces that accent the personality of the individual.
Following the artistic pair around France is a pleasant journey that encompasses art, history, humanity, life, loss and love. We are reminded throughout the film that we all travel a path and it is easy to lose sight of others as they travel on parallel or intersecting trails. We must step back and notice the beauty and individuals around us.