It’s a strange partnership, iconic New Wave director Agnès Varda and hipster street artist JR, but the exchange of ideas between the two in Visages Villages is wonderfully engaging. The film is simplicity itself. Varda and JR cross France on a mission to put ordinary people and their stories in the spotlight. There are ex-miners, waitresses, wives of dockers. All they are expected to do is pose for photographs which are then enlarged until, giant-sized, they are pasted on the walls of houses or industrial buildings.
Varda, at 89-years-of-age is still a force to be reckoned with. At times tetchy, as she tackles JR over his inability to be filmed without his sunglasses, she shows great depth and understanding of the work of the artist dubbed the French Banksy. For his part, JR seems delighted to bounce ideas of a director inextricably linked to the French New Wave with its emphasis on stylistic freedom, realism, symbolism and political and social comment.
There are many memorable scenes over the film’s 90 minutes. One of the most best is Varda and JR’s re-enacting the Bande á part Louvre scene with Varda flying through the museum in a wheelchair.
Reminders of Varda’s film career are sprinkled throughout Visages Villages. Whether it’s a reference to her Chloe de 5 à 7 or her friendship with Jean Luc Godard, it’s all there to see.
Visages Villages is a moving, funny, inspiring cross-generational delight.