A last minute change of heart meant I veered into the screening of the completely charming, absorbing and thought provoking documentary Visages, Villages. Produced written and directed by acclaimed Belgian director Agnes Varda and French photographer/muralist JR. The film documents the two of them on a journey as they travel through parts of rural France where one or the other ones have an idea or a connection with a person there. At their chosen location they find faces and print them out in JR’s special truck come printer on wheels and paste them to walls, houses, oil tanks etc. The results are extremely moving and affecting and their unlikely friendship becomes another emotional facet to this beautiful documentary.
Travelling through rural France was a good idea; their subjects are warm, funny and often have extraordinary faces. They take a young shy café worker and paste her on the side of wall where she becomes the most famous person in the region. She has mixed view on her new fame but her kids love it. A woman who is the last standing in a row of miners house also has her face plastered on her house, alongside the former miners which makes for an emotional and moving scene. My personal favourite is when Agnes pushes the women workers or wives at docks to the forefront. However there are many, many moving scenes in this documentary, as well as the fact that Agnes and JR are just the most wonderful people to be spending time with. JR’s 33 to Agnes 88 only becomes an issue when climbing towers and their bickering is just as important as their agreements. The respect they have for each other and the art is evident throughout.
As the film draws to a close there is an emotional moment where Agnes is treated badly by the non-existent Jean Luc Godard. We see the most human side of Agnes and it really makes you want to smack Godard round the head. Or maybe he was simply trying to make the narrative of Agnes’ film more verite? Who knows but the film ends leaving one with the most wonderful images and thoughts etched into memory. This is a film about thought provoking art being made by beautiful people and making people happy. As one of the factory workers says ‘art is supposed to provoke, non?’ I urge you to see it, you won’t be disappointed.