Faces, Places is a delightful and exciting road movie that Agnès Varda came up with in creative negotiation with the French artist JR. He confesses to being influenced by the faces and murals in Varda's films; she declares her admiration for JR's faces and murals in Cuba and the Pantheon in Paris. Their point in common is walls: their interest in the way figures on walls (faces, bodies, animals) are monumentally impressive, the poetic and / or political adaptation between the figure and its surroundings, and the effect they have on the people who come across them.
Using chance as a criterion and with six decades of filmmaking under Varda's belt, all the crucial elements of her work converge here in tone, subject matter and forms: the first person voice-over we have grown familiar with from shorts like Salut les cubains ( 1963); the ever-present incorporation of the creative process into the film itself; and reflections on the relationship between cinema and photography, which has been around from the beginning and which she stops to address in detail in the first episode of her series Agnès de ci de là Varda (2011). There is also, of course, her defense of the role and viewpoint of women, whom she has moved from the sidelines (the wife of Cartier-Bresson, the wives of the stevedores, the young barefoot waitress) to place front and center in the spaces and story: here we find women as totems, women as birds, women who want goats with horns; Varda has been rebalancing their presence on screen for half a century, with powerful women such as those in Réponse de femmes (1975) and Sans toit ni loi (1985). Like her portrait of Jane Birkin in Jane B. par Agnes V. (1987), Faces, Places is both the negotiated portrait of an artist (JR) and his work, and an explicit collaboration to discover the film they want to make together. Perhaps the key antecedent is Mur murs (1981), a film in which Varda demonstrated that murals in Los Angeles can reveal the subconscious of the city. The strange presence of Jean-Luc Godard runs throughout the entire film, JR echoing that figure, his eyes always hidden behind sunglasses; the bitter ending will finish off the adolescent friendship between the two artists, personalities that might prove to be incompatible once and for all.
Guillermo G. Peydró