Review “Visages Villages”

As they make their way, sometimes merry, sometimes melancholy, a double-portrait of the artists forms. It’s very moving.


Agnes Varda is almost 90 years old and she is still making films. That alone should be cause for dancing in the streets. But wait, there’s more: Agnes Varda is almost 90 years old and she is still making fantastic films. Searching, compassionate, provocative, funny, sad ones. This is one of them. You should see it, and then go dancing in the streets.

Varda has been making films since 1955, and throughout her career, which saw her as one of the key figures in the French New Wave, she’s been a generous and ingenious collaborator. For this movie, which is part character drama (with real-life characters), part road documentary, and part essay-film, Varda co-signs with the French artist who calls himself JR. A bit over one-third Varda’s age, he always sports a hat and dark glasses. His work is in photography and public art. He travels through Europe in a van that’s a photo booth, creating large-format portraits of people he meets. He goes even larger with some of his other works, creating giant pictures that he then affixes to the sides of buildings, or train cars, or ships. After which he documents that work, and lets nature take its course—the images are generally washed away by time. In this film, one is very dramatically swept off by the tide.

JR’s is a humanist artistic mission; he gets ordinary people to partake in his work, which inevitably delights them. This movie, which has the French title “Visages Villages,” opens with scenes set in various places where, Varda and JR explain in voiceover, they did not meet. (Included is a funny scene at a disco, where a spry Varda—her unusual bowl haircut totally white on top, with a thick ring of vermillion at bottom, a kind of tonsure—dances up a storm at the other end of the floor from JR.) Once each describes the others’ work, and their mutual admiration, they’re off in JR’s van.

Varda’s ideas for photo work bring her to places she visited long ago, and her own earlier films. They visit the village of Cherance, in Normandy, where Nathalie Sarraute, the great writer to whom Varda dedicated her amazing 1985 film, “Vagabond,” lived. They find the well-hidden graves of Henri Cartier-Bresson and his wife, and pay homage. But while they honor the dead, they concentrate on celebrating the living. At one village, they see a row of one-time miners’ houses, waiting to be torn down. The hold up is one woman, the surviving daughter of a miner, who’s staying put. Her portrait, along with vintage images of the miners from the town, is pasted to the houses. The port at Le Havre, a man’s world clotted with ship’s containers, sees its largely unheralded women celebrated with a triptych pasted to a block of stacked containers. An enlarged portrait of Guy Bourdain, a one time collaborator of Varda’s who went on to become a celebrated photographer, is put on a concrete bunker that Germans abandoned in World War II and ended up off a cliff and embedded in a beach. A visit to a goat farm inspires an artwork calling for goats to be permitted to own their own horns.

As they make their way, sometimes merry, sometimes melancholy, a double-portrait of the artists forms. It’s very moving. Varda’s sight, which served her so well so many years, is getting dimmer. At the same time she wonders why JR always wears dark glasses. This habit, she tells him, reminds her of an old friend, Jean-Luc Godard. The resemblance sets up the film’s finale, which is puzzling, heartbreaking, but ultimately celebratory. And wobbles the line between documentary and fiction so strongly that the vibrations will linger in your heart for days afterwards.


Source: ROGEREBERT.COM Faces Places Movie Review & Film Summary (2017) | Roger Ebert

Film stars protest sexual harassment at ‘French Oscars’


Throughout the Cesar Awards ceremony Friday night, presenters and winners referenced the movement that has campaigned for an end to abuses by powerful men.

And the packed concert hall stood in ovation as the presenter called on everyone to support the #MaintenantOnAgit (Now We Act) campaign launched this week, aimed at raising money to help women pursue legal complaints against abusers.

Anger over sexual violence and demands for gender equality in the cinema industry charged the atmosphere around this year’s Cesars – much like around the Oscars coming up Sunday in Hollywood.

Instead of wearing black – as actors in the U.S. and Britain have done at recent awards shows – French stars chose to wear a white ribbon to make their statement.

So did special guests like Penelope Cruz, given a special award for her career’s work.

“The entire world is talking about this, it’s not only a problem of our industry, but of all industries and of any woman who does not have the opportunity to have a microphone in front of her as I have myself,” she told reporters.

The most Cesar awards went to the AIDS drama “120 Beats Per Minute,” which took six prizes, including best film. Directed by Robin Campillo, the movie centers on the activist group ACT UP in Paris in the 1990s at the height of the AIDS crisis.

Producer Marie-Ange Luciani hailed the social change since that era, including growing acceptance of gay marriage. She also had a message for those disconcerted by the turmoil prompted by the #MeToo movement that started in Hollywood with sexual abuse accusations against producer Harvey Weinstein.

“Don’t be afraid of what will happen. This moment is not a threat. It is a promise. And history will show we are right,” she said.

France’s entertainment industry has seen divisions over the #MeToo movement, with Catherine Deneuve notably saying it had gone too far.

No one at the Cesars publicly said anything similar.

The ceremony’s president, Vanessa Paradis – singer and actress and Johnny Depp’s ex-wife – set the tone by opening the show saying: “I am wearing this white ribbon for the fight against violence against women.”

More than 100 personalities, including actress Sandrine Bonnaire, director Agnes Jaoui and actor-director Julie Gayet, asked for donations destined for associations helping women pursue cases before justice, “so that no woman ever again has to say #MeToo.”

French film stars including Juliet Binoche called in a proposal in newspaper Le Monde on Friday for quotas to guarantee that more government film subsidies go to movies directed by women.

The ceremony was dedicated to Jeanne Moreau, the smoky-voiced femme fatale of the French New Wave who died last year, known for her distinctive blend of sensuality, intellect and resolve.

Best actress winner Jeanne Balibar praised actresses for supporting each other amid discrimination, injustice and abuses. “Despite our differences and our competition, we hold on.”

In addition to a white ribbon, actorBlanche Gardin wore a pin with the picture of comedian Louis C.K., accused of sexual harassment, and earned laughter with a sarcastic plea:

“Producers no longer have the right to rape actresses . But do we still have the right to sleep with them to get roles?” she asked. “Because if we don’t, then we have to learn our lines, pass auditions, and we don’t have the time. You realize how much time that takes?”