Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
Want more? Listen to our discussion of 'Faces Places' on SWITCHCast
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
Joel interviews the MIFF team to find out what's in this year's program announcement! Click to listen to our special SWITCHCast ep now.x
review, Faces Places, Faces, Places, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Agnès Varda, Jr, Laurent Levesque, Agnès Varda, Jr, Documentary film rating

FACES PLACES

★★★★★

THE EMPATHY ENGINE

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Chris Edwards
15th August 2017

Not every great filmmaker gets to sign off with a great film. Even fewer are able to incorporate the very nature of this farewell into the film itself, tying it into the fabric of the film’s DNA so intrinsically, crafting their own ode to the art form they’re leaving behind. Now, this may have nothing to do with Agnès Varda, one of the most influential contributors to the French New Wave that seismically shifted the landscape of cinema in the twentieth century. The 88-year old Belgian director, who has been one of the most vital voices in international independent filmmaking for decades, hasn’t explicitly stated that this will be her last film. However, should it be (and based on her age, failing eyesight, and the confounding difficulty she’s having in securing financing, it most likely will be), it is a most beautifully perfect grace note of a farewell.

The documentary chronicles Varda’s friendship with young visual artist JR – a tall, bearded 33-year old, permanently hidden behind dark sunglasses – as the two co-directors travel the French countryside, meeting locals, listening to their stories, and turning them into giant photographic artworks that JR emblazons across apartment buildings, barns, factories and even rubble. Ostensibly, that’s it. The entire film, all 89 minutes, is just that. And it’s wonderful.

WATCH: 'FACES PLACES'
WATCH HUNDREDS OF UNIQUE FILMS
SWITCH
WATCH

Varda and JR are a beautifully mismatched odd couple, but their shared curiosity and boundless imaginations bind them together. Really, their partnership is the film’s warm centre, as they gently bicker and trade views on art and the act of creation, it’s clear that each has found in the other a kindred spirit, regardless of age. The way they collaborate effortlessly, bouncing ideas off of each other and pushing each other’s flights of fancy, is just endlessly joyful in and of itself. But it’s their subjects, and the artists’ relationships with them, which push this film over the edge into masterpiece territory.

I could list each and every tiny episode of creation and connection in the film, and endlessly gush over the tiny details in the stories these people share, or I could just describe the overwhelming cumulative effect that this film and these people create together. It is stunning how rife with unassuming humanity and empathy this quiet, charming documentary is, and how powerful its conception of art and the generosity of creation ends up being. These two artists are each ceaselessly inquisitive when it comes to people, in such a genuine, heartfelt manner. Each of the figures that they encounter on their travels reveals to the pair facets of their lives that may not immediately jump out to the casual passer-by – loneliness, fortitude, friendship, and beauty – but are in fact lying in wait just beneath the surface.

It is stunning how rife with unassuming humanity and empathy this quiet, charming documentary is...

At one point in the film, the focus shifts onto Varda herself, as the great director reveals in detail the degeneration of her eyesight, an upsettingly ironic fate for such an artist. However, even this then becomes a movingly light, quiet moment, as JR helps her convey what this process looks like from the inside by creating a life-sized, blurry, and ever so slightly moving eye chart – yet another tiny, tossed-off moment of visually striking empathy. This then extends even further to the final piece that JR makes for Varda, one that shouldn’t be spoiled, but is nevertheless profoundly striking in its big-hearted simplicity.

I cannot tell you how fantastically timely I found this film. The great philosopher for our times, one Tilda Swinton, once called cinema “the ultimate compassion machine – the empathy engine”, and I can’t think of a more fitting way to describe this film. Reinforcing the ability of art and artists to form connections and provide windows into the lives of people who are just like us, and also not at all, the film is a moving tribute to the act of creation and the bonds that that act can form.

Please, please see it.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 25/01/2018
RUN TIME: 1h 29m
CAST: Agnès Varda
Jr
Laurent Levesque
DIRECTORS: Agnès Varda
Jr
Want more? Listen to our discussion of 'Faces Places' on SWITCHCast 
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Looking for more Melbourne International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights. 
Cosmic Sin - A film that delivers on the promise of its title
TRENDINGCOSMIC SINA film that delivers on the promise of its title
Pocahontas - 25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
TRENDINGPOCAHONTAS25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
Who the hell is Bloodshot? - A primer on Vin Diesel's superhero
TRENDINGWHO THE HELL IS BLOODSHOT?A primer on Vin Diesel's superhero
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
Gallipoli - A powerful and important film remembered
TRENDINGGALLIPOLIA powerful and important film remembered
The World at War - The landmark documentary series restored in high definition
TRENDINGTHE WORLD AT WARThe landmark documentary series restored in high definition
Malila: The Farewell Flower - Contemplating love and loss
TRENDINGMALILA: THE FAREWELL FLOWERContemplating love and loss
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two - New villains, same problems
TRENDINGBATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN, PART TWONew villains, same problems
Buckley's Chance - Not worth a chance
TRENDINGBUCKLEY'S CHANCENot worth a chance
Calm with Horses - A savage and sensitive Irish crime drama
TRENDINGCALM WITH HORSESA savage and sensitive Irish crime drama
Shiva Baby - A comedy of discomfort
TRENDINGSHIVA BABYA comedy of discomfort
The Glass Room - Stunning yet soulless
TRENDINGTHE GLASS ROOMStunning yet soulless
Some Kind of Heaven - A bizarre lens into a Floridian retirement village
TRENDINGSOME KIND OF HEAVENA bizarre lens into a Floridian retirement village
25 Free-to-Watch Short Horror Films - The scariest shorts we uncovered online
TRENDING25 FREE-TO-WATCH SHORT HORROR FILMSThe scariest shorts we uncovered online
The Swallows of Kabul - Unflinching and gorgeously animated
TRENDINGTHE SWALLOWS OF KABULUnflinching and gorgeously animated
Cerulean Blue - Promising debut for a new voice in Australian cinema
TRENDINGCERULEAN BLUEPromising debut for a new voice in Australian cinema
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
TRENDINGTHE VIOLIN PLAYERSex and strings
2:22 - Mind-bending metaphysical mumbo-jumbo
TRENDING2:22Mind-bending metaphysical mumbo-jumbo
Birds of Prey - I'm here to report a terrible crime: DC has saved cinema
TRENDINGBIRDS OF PREYI'm here to report a terrible crime: DC has saved cinema
La Dolce Vita - Not as sweet as you'd think 60 years on
TRENDINGLA DOLCE VITANot as sweet as you'd think 60 years on
© 2011 - 2021 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us!