Faces Places Review: The Wonders of Cherishing Memories of the Ordinary

✯✯✯✯½

You’d be hard pressed to find another documentary filmmaker much like Agnès Varda out there today. But at 90 years old, she still manages to remain every bit as unstoppable as ever, now with Faces Places – her first film to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Collaborating with mural artist JR, Varda’s Faces Places is a film that is built upon seeing the beauty in the small facets of ordinary life, showing itself to be starting out from a friendship that takes the two of them moving from one place to another, seeing new faces along the way, and even musing about what to do with their life at the very moment. In watching a film like Faces Places you see that all of this is happening right in front of your eyes, as if you are together with Varda and JR – and within that very moment, it just feels so invigorating. But in looking back at Varda’s own life achievements in Faces Places as someone who’s far beyond seventy years younger than she is, I sit here wondering what I have left with my own life the way it is, remaining an introvert who plans without executing – perhaps this film may have provided a wake-up call I may have needed for so long already.

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This film is just about something we believe to be so simple in life, Agnès Varda and mural artist JR are travelling through many different places in rural France – forming new memories of their own travels in the forms of photographs and murals. But in the simplicity of an idea like that, you also have Agnès Varda reminiscing about what her life has brought her to, having made a name for herself as the grandmother of the French New Wave, now as she enters her nineties, together with JR to guide her through this journey all throughout France looking back at everything that brought her to this point of her life and the thought comes forth about what will be set to come the moment her time has come. From watching Faces Places, I thought to myself about what it must be like to be in the presence of Varda. She continuously shows herself to be an all-around welcoming presence, if anything ever sets the mood better for watching Faces Places.

In looking back at the memories that keep Varda’s life moving the way it does, those of us who have followed so closely with her own career come back to see how those moments have defined herself just as they have left an impact on numerous others. In her travels with JR, she reflects upon her career and the many people she has impacted, but at this point of her life we find that everything is only starting to fade away from her. But in a companion like JR, we feel that those memories are being revitalized as the two of them travel together through France for he presents himself a more energetic companion, while collecting pictures in order to form new memories. Of course you see right here a perfect reformation of that legacy to which Varda had made for herself, but knowing what she stood for compared to her contemporaries, and how she in turn has influenced their creations, we also get a taste of how she is still inspired by the stories of ordinary life – akin to the many memories we like to form with every moment that we live, because we know it as being significant in some sense.

But in one’s own youth, there come those times in which you reflect upon more moments of your own past and how they have defined the way you live now – some of these memories are never the easiest, others are full of pleasantries. All of those new faces that you remember over the years, together with the new places you head in your life, in watching everything unfold as it does in Faces Places, I was struck by how much Varda still hangs onto what may seem up close to be the smallest moments of her own life, as formed by the many people whom she meets together with JR. For as much as this film may seem like it meanders through these facets of everyday life, it is still touching to see how she still finds new ways to adventure – for her life may have been one of glory as a prime figure of the French New Wave, but it was never always as easy as we like to believe.

From watching Faces Places you already get a taste of what it feels like to dig up old memories that started small, and try to recreate them in any way possible. Because sometimes embracing the ordinary can also lead to the most extraordinary results – for that’s the way life is. Life is full of joys, many sorrows, but both still play a crucial part in creating the memories that define who we are as people. And sometimes, we just never see it at the very moment until we look back upon them, and how we capture the newer moments that come our way. In Faces Places you already see Agnès Varda providing a guide to how we can find something so much more beautiful in what we see every day, because there’s always room to find more adventures throughout our lives. And we certainly don’t want to waste those moments, because we know for sure that Varda definitely hasn’t – she continued to cherish them.


Watch the trailer right here.

All images via Le Pacte.


Directed by Agnès Varda and JR
Written by Agnès Varda, JR
Featuring Agnès Varda, JR
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 89 minutes

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