James Bartlett checks out the “charming and likeable” Faces Places,  which screened at the 66th Melbourne International Film Festival.


Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and currently doing the rounds on that circuit – I saw it recently at the Melbourne Film Festival – this charming and likeable documentary is likely to be coming to a cinema near you some time soon.

Based on the unlikely – and initially uneasy – relationship between veteran documentarian and photographer Varda and fedora-wearing street muralist JR (you probably know his work; faces and other subjects blown up into huge black-and-white posters and slapped on the side of buildings or in odd places), it follows them as they travel across hidden, rural France in a photo booth van.

Despite JR seemingly being in awe of the red-and-white haired Agnès (who, it was announced on September 6th, is one of the recipients of an honorary Oscar this year), he is rather sarcastic to her, while she constantly exhorts him to take off his sunglasses, which he wears no matter what. They visit a chemical plant, an abandoned town and even discover a WWII bunker that’s fallen down a cliff onto a beach and now looks like a broken arrowhead of the gods.

Meeting locals as they use them as models for the instant-printed posters that become part of temporary open-air galleries, there are emotional moments as we see a local postman immortalized in his neighborhood, or a woman’s face plastered on the outside of her home just days before the whole street is bulldozed.

Most stunning perhaps are the giant-sized posters of the wives of dock workers affixed to a huge wall of shipping containers, but we get to know this odd pair well too, and learn that Agnès has a long (but lapsed) relationship with French film auteur Jean Luc-Godard.

It’s his doorstep that we finally end up on, but that’s not the main subject of this documentary; it’s the story of an unexpected friendship that develops – literally before our eyes – during a fun road trip, and, more than that, the reactions that people have to their experiment.


The 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival ran 3–20 August 


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