After two sold-out screenings at the recently concluded Chicago International Film Festival, Faces Places—the latest from French New Wave legend Agnes Varda—receives its premiere theatrical run at the Music Box beginning on Friday, October 27. When I interviewed Varda in Chicago two years ago, she was already talking excitedly about this new documentary, which had just begun shooting. When I asked her if it was going to be a feature or a short, she mischievously replied that she intended it to be exactly 75 minutes long because she considered that to be the ideal length for a non-fiction film. The fact that the end result runs 89 minutes can be seen as an indication of just how much valuable footage Varda and her co-director, the photographer and installation artist known only as “JR,” gleaned while traversing the French countryside in pursuit of interesting faces and places.
The premise of this whimsical yet profound road movie finds Varda and JR traveling from one small town to another in a truck outfitted with a mobile photo booth that allows them to not only take photographs of the people they come across but also print them and paste the resulting images onto buildings in the same villages where the subjects live. It’s a heart-warming celebration of rural, working-class France that turns ordinary people into local celebrities and asks viewers to think about the role that art plays in everyday life. It is also a meditation on mortality, as the 88-year-old Varda frequently reminisces about friends who are no longer with her and talks about her need to capture images of people and things before she can forget them. If this is indeed Varda’s final feature film, as she has indicated in recent interviews, it is the loveliest swan song imaginable.
Faces Places opens at the Music Box for a weeklong run beginning Friday, October 27. For more info, including ticket info and showtimes, visit the Music Box website.