Looking for a quirky fun film? How about a film where an 80-something-year-old New Wave film director takes an art filled road trip around France with a famous young muralist? Faces Places is a film like no other. It’s a buddy film, a travelogue, an art documentary, and a brilliant performance art piece. And it’s above all just a whole lot of fun watching this odd couple of the decade, tiny Agnes Varda with her two-tone hair and hip young JR with his penchant for wearing dark glasses 24/7, as they tool around rural France in his photo booth van, connecting with locals and leaving them with fabulous art installations.

JR has a van that’s painted to look like a huge camera. In it he has a photo booth which spits out enormous prints. Entering a village and letting everyone do their own self-portrait is a great fun. But making huge prints of those people and combining and affixing them as larger murals in factories, at docks, on village walls, barns, even trains, takes those images to a different place. And that is what Agnes and JR are after. Their big art makes big statements. Huge women stand strong over the Le Havre docks where men reign. Faces of miners that lived in a now abandoned mining town grace the walls of a row of houses marked for demolition. Agnes’s gnarled toes cover a train car.

Many of these collaborative projects clearly took a lot of doing and didn’t just happen along the way. Cranes and crews were called in for the big ones. But that doesn’t take away from the whimsical and artistic nature of the journey. These two are very funny and sweet together, and together they come up with amazing imagery. (I’d love to tour around and see them one day.) And as what may be Agnes Varda’s final film Faces Places is a beautiful ode to a life lived for art. I recommend it for everyone, not just the arty crowd. I can’t imagine anyone not loving it.

[Mainstream Chick weighs in: I absolutely enjoyed Faces Places (French title: Visages Villages). It’s sweet and charming even if occasionally a bit contrived. I can easily see how this artsy road-trippin’ doc was a crowd-pleaser at Cannes. It is French, after all! The film plays like an extended version of an Across America (or in this case, Across France) segment that you’d catch on CBS Sunday Morning. Good stuff.  -hb]

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