‘Faces Places’ with Agnès Varda and JR

From high art in the gallery (my last post) to street art, here catching the last chance for a Paris in July entry, I’m presenting the fascinating documentary, a road movie of making art in the open milieu of villages and among the working populace. Faces Places (2017) is an account of the venerable auteur of the Nouvelle Vague (The French New Wave: Goddard, Truffaut…) Agnès Varda (1928-2019), then at 89, going on a road trip with photographer and artist JR to scout for ordinary people to photograph in various obscure locales in France.

the world's longest baguette .jpg

Their larger than life photo prints are then pasted onto buildings or open places for everyone to view, evoking the shared joy of living, working, and the collective memory of a meaningful past. Like this one with photos of pioneer miners pasted on a row of dilapidated homes slated for demolition in a miners’ community. The one remaining homeowner who refused to vacate her house was moved to tears upon seeing the completion of the project.

Miners from days past.jpg

Art undefined and unconfined, once pasted onto these surfaces, JR’s black-and-white photographic images convert the whole building or structure into an art form. The world is his canvas. Unlike Banksy, JR is transparent with his creative process, and lets the public view his work in progress. A TED Prize winner (2011), his large-scale, participatory art projects are installed all over the world, albeit sometimes illegally according to local laws, but the people welcomed him.

At age 89, Agnès Varda became the oldest nominee in Oscar history when Faces Places was nominated for Best Documentary for the 2018 Academy Awards. It’s now on DVD and Blu-ray. Her numerous older works may not be accessible for us so readily. Check your streaming or on demand services. I was able to watch two of her excellent films Vagabond (1985) and Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962, click on link to my review). Don’t miss this short clip on IMDb “Agnès Varda in Memoriam”.

The soul-stirring original music by Matthieu Chedid complement the meaningful duo collaboration. At the beginning, JR talks with Varda to organize the making of their joint project. We see them exchange the following dialogues:

AV:  What I like was meeting amazing people by chance.

JR:  So you want to carry on that way, with no plan or itinerary?

AV:  Yes. Chance has always been my best assistant.

JR:  Do you think chance will work for both of us?

AV:  Maybe.

From the film, we can see chance had worked for both of them marvellously.


AVJR-Chairs-on-the-beach-Normandy (2).jpg


~ ~ ~ ~ Ripples




Paris in July is hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea

PIJ2019 Tamara

Other Paris in July 2019 Posts on Ripples:

Pictures at an Exhibition 

‘Coco Before Chanel’ directed by Anne Fontaine

‘Gemma Bovery’ to cool your summer day

‘A Sunday in the Country’ is an Impressionist Cinematic Painting

Published by


If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

13 thoughts on “‘Faces Places’ with Agnès Varda and JR”

  1. Varda was an amazing creative person. I’ve meant to watch some of those films.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com


  2. How fascinating, both as Art and as an observation of life. I love looking at real people, “ordinary” people, far more than I do the famous or social media personalities. We can learn so much, I think, from observing one another. I hope the homeowner who would not vacate his/her home is not forced to leave it…


    1. Bellezza,

      From the film, looks like she could. Overall, this is a worthy feature yet light and enjoyable. The creative process is an inspiration.


  3. I came across Varda by Agnes on a billboard at the cinema and then on Curzon streaming. It didn’t sound so great – a film maker I hadn’t heard of talking about their work, but once I started I was delighted to be able to watch at a pace where I could go back to make sure I understood all the French, Agnes has a beautiful clear voice. At the end I was sad to leave Agnes’s company and then delighted again when I came back to your review to find out that Faces Places is in the same format, where we get to spend time with this intelligent, creative woman. What an amazing creative force she was.


    1. Denise,

      Varda by Agnes is her last work. I’ve been looking for it but can’t find it, not available in the three streaming services I have access to. We don’t have Curzon here. Varda has left a significant legacy when she died in March this year at age 90. Last May at Cannes, she and Cate Blanchett led 80 some women in the film industry to walk up the red carpet steps, a silent protest in support of equality in the film industry. Two films I highly recommend: ‘Vagabond’ is sadly haunting and ‘Cleo from 5 to 7’ is a must-see. Hope you can find those in your streaming service.


  4. Thank you for sharing this. I have a DVD of Vagabond – and from time to time return to try and comprehend its depth. She’s a complex director. Worthy of awards.


    1. You’re right, it’s moving esp. the end. I won’t give spoiler here in case somebody hasn’t seen it reading this… JR is one loving soul. I watched it on Blu-ray, the special features are good too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s