REVIEW: Faces Places | Lotterywest Festival Films

Faces Places

Review by Michael D Hollick


Icon of Perth’s summers, the Lotterywest Festival Films, opened its tree-lined doors this week to usher in its 2017-2018 season. Looking ahead, cinema audiences are in for yet another treat, as Tom Vincent, PIAF film program manager, has been busy again lovingly handpicking from the over 300 films he watches annually to bring the best and brightest of international cinema for Perth cinephiles to enjoy under the stars.

First up this season is Faces Places, a free-flowing film that will catch you by surprise due to its effortless, yet precise, portrayal of the human condition in its many, varied guises. The film’s simple narrative is deployed by following odd couple, 88-year-old Belgian director Agnes Varda and 33-year-old French photographer and graffiti artist JR, on their journeys around rural France in JR’s re-purposed van, a photo lab on wheels. As the couple arrive at their various destinations, they ask questions, gain insights and playfully engage with the locals, be it a goat farmer or a shipping dock worker, who unwittingly become the pair’s collaborators and artistic partners in crime. The two find a mutual respect and understanding for one another in the exploration of beauty and art as they peel away the surface of everyday existence in an effort to find that which is real and beautiful.

The film is lively and engaging, often breaking the fourth wall, and is deeply layered with nuances that allow the film to be enjoyed on a variety of levels. As an example, the recurrence of Varda telling off JR for always wearing his sunglasses is referenced in the post-modern sense, (similarities to that of Jean-Luc Goddard who is good friend and star of Varda’s short films), the emotional, (JR is putting a layer between himself and the real world) and the humorous, (Varda is close to blind, so that if JR were to take his glasses off, she could hardly tell the difference). These levels bump and rub against each other, vying for the audience’s attention, and ultimately create a wonderful spirit of a film that has much to tell about the nature of all humans and what is to simply be.