FACES PLACES gets 7/10 Larger than life

Directed by Agnès Varda, JR
Starring Agnès Varda, JR

7/10

The films of PIAF this year start off with this delightful little documentary that casually turns its own lens on itself. Two French artists collaborate in an effort to bring all of the regular people of France together: Agnès Varda, the legendary director of the Left Bank side of the French New Wave movement, and JR, a photographer with a keen interest in making regular peoples’ faces and bodies seem larger than life. This delightfully charismatic couple travel across a variety of explored and unexplored areas of France in JR’s very cool photo-lab-van, which can print large-scale instantaneous photos to be plastered on any and all of France’s walls.

This nifty set-up quickly shows how this photography/street art can affect those living within the houses that hold the art, particularly one woman whose house, which is scheduled to be demolished, has her large portrait photo placed on its outside, in the hopes that this art will lessen the chance of her house being destroyed. Similarly, a little community of lonely half-demolished houses in a remote area are suddenly filled with an enthusiastic gathering of people who have their photos taken and placed on the crumbling houses, to keep a piece of them with these long-forgotten monuments.

This is a breezy documentary that’s easy to take in, though it rarely offers much to consider about the artistic implications of this intriguing photo-lab, such as how its photos present people larger than they actually are, similarly to a cinema screen. The subjects of most of these photos are the working class who are given this rather rare opportunity to have their presence proudly magnified – Agnès and JR don’t often politicise their subjects too much, as they opt for a more subjective meaning for their photo-art. It’s up to the faces of these subjects and the places they are in to tell the meaning.

Although there are quite a few generations between them, the sweet Agnès and the passionate JR work as a wonderful duo guiding us through this artful road doco. A lot of the film’s success is down to their presence, which shows how in tune they are with not just art, but with people. Faces Places may lack much of a lasting impact, but it’s a delight to watch and to experience the joys of those who make art and those who are the art.

Faces Places plays at UWA Somerville from Mon Nov 27 – Sun Dec 3, 8pm, and at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tues Dec 5 – Sun Dec 10, 8pm. For more info head to perthfestival.com.au.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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