'Faces Places' film review: Lyrical exploration of everyday people & visionary artists
What better guides for a journey across the French countryside than a pair of acclaimed experimental artists? Part delightful buddy/road trip comedy and part observational commentary, the French documentary “Faces Places” (now playing in select cities) is a surprisingly touching and wise journey to capture easily overlooked profundity from the deceptively mundane.
Varda and JR share a charming dynamic - two eccentric artists at different ends of their careers, collaborating in their shared vision. He spryly bounds through the countryside wearing his trademark fadora and sunglasses, while she patiently shuffles along with cane in hand. Despite whatever superficial differences separate Varda and JR, they are spiritual and artistic soulmates bonded by a shared curiosity of people and a passion to capture, even if only for a moment, images that distill daily life.
Their improvised installation art pieces celebrate everyday people and their everyday lives. This is a journey through regular villages as seen through the eyes of two visionary artists. Varda and JR immerse themselves in small towns, finding exquisite beauty in apparent mundanity. Their large-scale portraits are eloquent statements paying tribute to heritage as well as alluding to the creeping modernity gradually reshaping towns that are hundreds of years old.
Each work of art is an insight into the way Varda and JR see the world, but their quirky and gently profound conversations together offer a more intimate revelation into the way they feel about the world. Their playful and surprisingly introspective chats allows "Faces" to sincerely connect with its subjects working through their own artistic expression. Even in the moments when Varda and JR are chatting up the locals, the questions they ask and the details they capture perhaps says more about the artists than it does about their subjects.
Final verdict: "Faces" is as much a journey through the artistic process as it is a tribute to everyday folk.
“Faces Places” is now playing in select cities. The French documentary is rated PG for brief nude images and thematic elements and has a running time of 89 minutes.