Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. France, 2017. Ciné Tamaris, Social Animals, Rouge International, Arte France Cinema, Arches Films, Canal+, Le Pacte, Cohen Media Group. Screenplay by JR, Agnes Varda. Cinematography by Roberto De Angelis, Claire Duguet, Julia Fabry, Nicolas Guicheteau, Romain Le Bonniec, Raphael Minnesota, Valentin Vignet. Produced by Rosalie Varda. Music by Matthieu Chedid. Film Editing by Maxime Pozzi-Garcia, Agnes Varda. Academy Awards 2017. Toronto International Film Festival 2017.
Experimental filmmaker Agnes Varda teams up with celebrated mural artist JR for one of the most delightful and inventive of the many delightful and inventive films in her oeuvre. They go to small towns in France aboard their photo booth on wheels, taking pictures of locals and pasting large size prints on the sides of buildings, vehicles, shipping containers, and in one fascinating (and sadly temporary) case a World War II bunker that has tumbled from a cliff to the beach below. It sounds like an empty caprice for a documentary, but the process of taking people’s images, usually photographing them in the most optimistic and self-empowered poses and expressions, and placing them high and tall where the world can celebrate them, inspires a myriad of responses, and most of them are wondrous to behold. Between these cherishable moments we are treated to the cameraderie of the two filmmakers and stars, whose constant ribbing of each other is as funny and endearing as their support of each other is poignant (look at how he comforts her when she breaks down outside Godard’s door at the end, it’s incredibly moving). JR makes for a charismatic presence on screen, while Varda has not allowed age to dampen her curiosity or need for exploration as an artist, and it’s such a treat to witness.