“FACES PLACES” is a documentary where, (to paraphrase a better media commentator than me,) the medium itself becomes part of the message of the movie. And the message that emerges is one that connects the subject and the environment, the subject and artist, and artist and audience to crate a unique presentation where the essence of the work is those relationships rather than the work itself.  With a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it is sure to be one of the more perfect illustrations of life itself as well as an enduring tribute and manifestation of an artist’s life work that you are ever likely to see.

The proposition of “FACES PLACES” is simplicity itself.  The directors, Agnès Varda and JR, two artists with extensive backgrounds in still photogrpahy travel through rural France and along the way capture and display images of people they meet and interact with.  However, the images of the local residents aren’t placed in picture frames to be viewed at an art gallery – they are prominently displayed outside, 10 feet high, on buildings, walls, and train cars and anywhere else they can find throughout the community.  Each photograph becomes a billboard sized display to which the residents are now prominently attached.

The result is itself a whimsical portrait the power of art, its ability to symbolize how the people are in fact the true structure of that place, as well as the underlying sense of it being a communal experience that can bring people together.  The filmmakers themselves, being 33 and 88, show how art, and in particular this project, can bridge generations and connect people.  In and of itself, the movie exists as a means of bringing two artists together who combine their imagination and talent to create something unexpected that would have been more difficult to achieve on their own.

Through this background documentation of their trip, where we get to join in the process of its creation, an “Artumentary”, if you will, is where we discover that the medium becomes the message.  The displaying of the art and people’s reaction to it are meant to be a part of the whole project.  The artists inserting themselves into the film make them subjects as well.  In turn, new art is created with the subjects of the photos taking selfies in front of the installations and sharing that others.  So Agnès and JR have managed to create a film that has also given birth to other art, a self-sustaining cycle of creativity that exists purely Ars Gratia Artis – art for art’s sake.

Reel Movie Mondays will be screening “Faces Places” January 15th, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. at Carnival Cinemas in downtown Red Deer.  Please join us, and until then, save me that aisle seat!


Jason Hlady

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