Cinema’s newest odd couple, 89-year-old Agnès Varda and young photographer JR, team up for a delightfully playful and unassumingly political road trip across France. Travelling in JR’s van, which doubles as a functioning camera, the pair interview, photograph and charm everyone they meet along the way. Varda and JR are as genuinely interested in factory workers and rural villagers as they are in artists and auteurs, and the resulting film is a wonderfully tender glimpse of humanity.
This is Varda’s first film made with a co-director but any worries about the possible dilution of her creative vision is unwarranted, as JR proves to be a stimulating and generative collaborator. The scene in which he pushes a wheelchair-bound Varda through the Louvre in a speedy homage to Godard’s Bande à Part should bring a tear to any cineaste’s eye. Godard himself makes an appearance (of sorts) at the end of the film, but it is the ordinary people and their stories which linger.
Kind, poignant and imaginative, Faces Places is a joyful riposte to the maxim that all great artists must be tortured souls. Agnès Varda - who came to the Duke of York’s during Brighton Festival 2015 - will shortly become the first female director to be awarded an honorary Oscar.