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Film / Faces Places

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Abbey Road Crossing (not seen in the movie)

Faces Places is a 2017 documentary feature co-directed by Agnès Varda and JR—yes, that's his Stage Name, "JR".

Varda, a famous director from the French New Wave, teamed up with JR, a "street artist" 56 years her junior. JR had prior to this film made his name in the art world for a series of projects in which he took photos, made enormous prints, and pasted them on the walls of public buildings. The idea of the film was for the two of them to travel around France, interview people, take their pictures, and post them up on walls in the manner of JR's previous art works. The resultant film saw them visiting various rural and out-of-the-way locales: a farm, two goat ranches, a mining town, an abandoned housing project, a secluded graveyard, a factory, a Normandy beach with a ruined German bunker (not a D-day beach), and the docks of Le Havre. Finally they make an attempt to visit Varda's old friend and colleague, Jean-Luc Godard.


  • Abandoned Area: Several. Varda and JR film at an unfinished housing project, but the "abandoned area" trope is subverted when a bunch of villagers show up, apparently for some sort of picnic and party. Later they film around an abandoned German bunker on the Normandy coast, which stands on end on the sand in an odd manner; the mayor of the village explains that it was pushed off the cliff onto the beach when it became a hazard due to erosion.
  • Animated Credits Opening: And an Animated Credits Closing. The opening credits are rotoscoped animation of Varda and JR walking around as the credits roll. The closing credits are the same, with Varda and JR sitting on a bench by a lake, this time with Limited Animation as the only thing moving is the waves on the lake.
  • Art Imitates Art: JR sits against a beach shack in exactly the same pose that Guy Bourdin adopted when Varda photographed him sitting against that same shack some fifty-odd years before.
  • Author Appeal: Varda wants to paste on the German bunker some decades-old photos of a naked man (specifically, photographer Guy Bourdin) that she took. JR demurs, eventually saying "Just admit that you like naked men."
  • Blade-of-Grass Cut: A close-up shot of some sort of long-nosed fly sampling a flower.
  • Book Ends: Very similar rotoscoped animation of Varda and JR over the opening and closing credits.
  • Cool Shades: Discussed Trope. JR has maintained an anonymity in France similar to Banksy while still being far more public (including appearing in this film). He wears sunglasses 24/7, something Agnes Varda needles him about, urging him to take them off. She compares him to Jean-Luc Godard who also always wore sunglasses; Varda claims that she gave Godard a role in her film Cleo From 5 to 7 in part just to get his glasses off. In the last scene JR takes his glasses off for her, but the audience still doesn't get a good look at him due to an Impairment Shot.
  • Credits Gag: Right at the end of the credits is a line attributing the film to "AV and JR", then below that identifying "AV" as Agnes Varda and "JR" as JR.
  • Documentary: A very loosely structured one giving snippets of regular life in (mostly) small-town France.
  • Doing It for the Art: In-Universe, Discussed Trope. When a railroad worker contemplates an enormous picture of Agnes Varda's toes, pasted on the side of a tanker car, he asks "What's the point?" She replies that "The point is the power of imagination."
  • Down on the Farm: Much of the film is shot in rural France; specifically they visit a farm and two different goat ranches. The first goat ranch makes a practice of removing the horns from the goats, something the owner of the second goat ranch disapproves of.
  • Eye Scream: The scene of Agnes Varda in a doctor's office as an ophthalmologist pokes around at her eyeball leads to a discussion of Un Chien Andalou and the infamous scene where a man slices an eyeball open with a razor.
  • Flashback: As the crew is pasting giant pictures of fish on a water tower, the film flashes back to Varda and JR taking pictures of said fish in a fish market.
  • The Ghost: Jean-Luc Godard. Varda talks about working with him back in the day. They make an appointment to meet in a coffee shop near where Godard is living but he doesn't show. Then they go to his home but he refuses to come to the door. Varda is offended.
  • Impairment Shot: After refusing repeatedly throughout the movie to take his sunglasses off, JR finally does in the last scene. But a blurry Impairment Shot meant to simulate Agnes Varda's deteriorated vision prevents the audience from getting a good look at him.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: A staged gag has a mailman visiting a woman in an unfinished housing project. He says "I have a letter for you," and proceeds to hand her a figurine of the letter N.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: 89-year-old Agnes Varda and 33-year-old JR. She notes that "You are extremely caring towards old people." This is followed by the two of them visiting his 100-year-old grandma.
  • Match Cut: There is a cut from the dead staring eye of a fish to Agnes Varda's eye, in a doctor's office, her eyelids being held open by a clamp Clockwork Orange-style. She is being treated for an unspecified "eye disease".
  • Narrator: Both Varda and JR are heard often over the soundtrack talking about their project.
  • Road Trip Plot: Varda and JR wandering around France seemingly at random, taking pictures of people and posting them on walls.
  • Slice of Life: No real story (not even a documentary version of a story) or narrative, just pictures of various people living their lives, as Varda and JR take photos of them and paste them on walls.
  • Solar and Lunar: A cheerful bum named Pony—he says that he's never worked and he lives in a tumbledown shack—says that his mother was the moon and gave him calmness and contemplation, while his father was the sun and gave him fire and passion.
  • Stock Footage:
    • The infamous eyeball-slicing scene from Un Chien Andalou is shown after Varda's visit to the eye doctor.
    • The clip of Jean-Luc Godard appearing onscreen (without his sunglasses!) in Varda's film Cleo From 5 to 7 is shown more than once, including when they're on their way to meet him.