A documentary where diminutive octogenarian French New Wave visionary Agnès Varda palls around rural France with lanky young contemporary street artist JR already held a lot of appeal for me, and then JR brought several bemused cardboard cutouts of Agnès to the Oscar nominees luncheon and that was some of the most enjoyable shit I’ve ever seen. I finally watched their movie this past Sunday afternoon while snacking on a slice of cake, and do you know? It was adorable.
Faces Places is such a good luck charm of a film, right up to the wonderful Franco-Anglo serendipity of there being a rhyme-preserving translation for the original Visages, Villages. Similarly fateful, Agnès and JR met seemingly by whim and then just decided to embark on an art project together. “I made the first move,” JR confides. You darlings.
They are a perfect pair of complements. Agnès shuffles around with her blurring vision and bright bi-colored hair and collects people, finding faces and stories and gently composing them. And JR leaps and gambols and laughs behind his sunglasses, scaling the sides of buildings into huge canvases to paste the faces and stories she has found. They are both natural cajolers, drawing others into their plots with ease, probably because what they make is consistently lovely. Outsized and sweet, and just odd enough to be terrifically crowd-pleasing.
In short, there are few more pleasant ways you could spend an hour and a half than riding around the French countryside in a van shaped like a giant camera with JR and Agnès Varda, where the only running thread to contend with is Agnès’ continuing attempts to get JR to take off his sunglasses.