Visages, villages (Agnès Varda and JR, 2017)

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hearthesilence
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Visages, villages (Agnès Varda and JR, 2017)

#1 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:34 pm

I forgot that Varda had crowdfunded her new film, Faces Places - it's a reflection of her generosity that she listed her many donors in the OPENING credits.

Anyone else see this? I usually expect good things from her, but even I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed this film. It's easily my favorite film of the year thus far, and it's hard to imagine any other work topping this experience (even with The Shape of Water and Phantom Thread on the horizon). The grinding, demoralizing state of the world of the past two years was likely a factor, because Varda's warm, moving humanism felt like a much-needed tonic. Even when discussing mortality or her own ailments, it was wonderful to see how sunny she could be in an amusing and profound way without being the least bit cloying or smarmy. And this felt like a wonderful introduction to JR's work as well - I barely knew who he was before the film. These two are truly kindred spirits.

And the film also has the most breathtaking shots I've seen all year, without the use of any visual FX, complex gimmickry or rigging. Just wonderful.

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Re: Agnes Varda

#2 Post by dda1996a » Thu Oct 19, 2017 2:35 pm

If there's a single director who's films improve by that director's presence in them is Varda (even more so than Herzog). Sadly I missed this at my local festival but I've only heard great things about it, and I like Varda very much so thus is high on my list.
What was the thing in that film about Godard?

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Re: Agnes Varda

#3 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Oct 19, 2017 2:41 pm

Well, I'd rather not spoil it for you, but he comes off as a real shit. (I say this as an enormous fan - he's one of the two greatest filmmakers in history, IMHO.) But it leads to touching moment.

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Re: Agnes Varda

#4 Post by swo17 » Thu Oct 19, 2017 4:07 pm

hearthesilence wrote:I forgot that Varda had crowdfunded her new film, Faces Places - it's a reflection of her generosity that she listed her many donors in the OPENING credits.

Anyone else see this?
zedz liked it

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Re: Agnes Varda

#5 Post by dda1996a » Thu Oct 19, 2017 4:23 pm

hearthesilence wrote:Well, I'd rather not spoil it for you, but he comes off as a real shit. (I say this as an enormous fan - he's one of the two greatest filmmakers in history, IMHO.) But it leads to touching moment.
Who's the other one?

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Re: Agnes Varda

#6 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Oct 19, 2017 4:52 pm

Image

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Re: Agnes Varda

#7 Post by bakofalltrades » Thu Oct 19, 2017 5:01 pm

I don't know any of you much at all, but I wanted to chime in after seeing this one at the Mill Valley Film Festival last weekend. I've seen some of Varda's films and was definitely a fan going in, but this is easily my favorite of her films so far, and it's currently my favorite film of the year.

To go totally cheeseball on it: I thought it was simply magical. Funny, warm, playful, imaginitive, sincere, moving, sad yet always uplifting. Varda's just so god damn lovable, and her desire to share the experience of art and her imagination is so infectious. Her rapport with JR was touching, and even in somewhat predictable setups they played well off one another.

I love how her films accrue thematic layers without ever getting too bogged down by them. Here, memory, time, age, illness, death, cinema, community, travel, art—any of those seems an appropriate lens for making meaning out of the film.

It's playing at the Denver film festival in a couple weeks, and I can't wait to see it again.

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Re: Faces Places (Agnes Varda & JR, 2017)

#8 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Oct 23, 2017 12:07 pm

I was also astonished by this, I think zedz said it all with:
zedz wrote:Agnès Varda’s new film is one of the most purely joyous films I’ve ever seen. It’s like digital serotonin
in the Top Tens thread. Somehow manages to be better than both The Gleaners and I and The Beaches of Agnès, both of which are films that I've seen figure into some people's very favorite films of all time - well, if you liked those, this will knock you on your rear end. It is moment after moment of touching camaraderie and mutual respect between two artists with a pretty massive generation gap between them, digging their heels into some of the most human street art ever conceived (not a rote Banksy-ism in sight here, both of these people are too intelligent and too optimistic for that kind of cynical pop-political bullshit) while introducing us to some truly exceptional human beings along the way. Not least of all themselves. I didn't think I could ever be so emotional just watching other people be impossibly touched by artistic gestures made on their behalf, but in sequence after sequence, seeing the subjects of this artwork react to it is perhaps as close as I've ever gotten to a truly religious experience, a connective thread being formed between myself and the humanity of others and the beauty that this world is capable of when given the chance to express it. All of this sounds ridiculously hyperbolic, but this film is worthy of any hyperbole that zedz, or myself, or hearthesilence, or bankofalltrades, or anyone else can throw at it.

One of a short list of my favorite films of all time - and I suspect that LQ has finally found something that she loves more than Sans Soleil, which is something I never thought possible. Just an absolutely wonderful document. If it's the last thing that Agnès Varda does, she'll have gone out on top. If it isn't - well, I'll just say that we are some very lucky people to be living in her time, and to be privy to her boundless love of humanity.

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Re: Faces Places (Agnes Varda & JR, 2017)

#9 Post by zedz » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:32 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:If it's the last thing that Agnès Varda does, she'll have gone out on top. If it isn't - well, I'll just say that we are some very lucky people to be living in her time, and to be privy to her boundless love of humanity.
It was a little morbid, but I also thought when I saw it: "this would be one hell of a final film." But I'd much prefer that AV & JR's road trips became an annual cinematic event.

And mfunk and anybody else who loved this film: Varda's television series From Here to There from 2011 is similarly joyous, though it's a lot more scattershot. It's basically a weekly arts programme hosted by Agnes Varda, travelling around the world, and who doesn't want to see that?

The French DVD has English subs

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Re: Visages, villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)

#10 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:35 pm

Do you happen to know offhand if it was included in that massive French DVD set of hers from a few years back? We already have that, so I guess I could just check, but I want easy answers, damnit

In a year without many documentaries making a big splash, I wonder if it's still wishful thinking to imagine this getting a Best Documentary nomination and seeing Varda and JR on the Oscars red carpet.

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Re: Visages, villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)

#11 Post by zedz » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:56 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Do you happen to know offhand if it was included in that massive French DVD set of hers from a few years back? We already have that, so I guess I could just check, but I want easy answers, damnit

In a year without many documentaries making a big splash, I wonder if it's still wishful thinking to imagine this getting a Best Documentary nomination and seeing Varda and JR on the Oscars red carpet.
Yes, it's in there somewhere!

Varda's getting an honorary Oscar this year, I think. A well-deserved nomination would be perfect timing.

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Re: Dynamic Top Tens of 2017

#12 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:39 am

J Adams wrote:
Worst film: Visages/villages.
Out of mild interest. Why?

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Re: Dynamic Top Tens of 2017

#13 Post by J Adams » Wed Nov 08, 2017 2:27 am

Principally because of the Godard episode. I took it seriously, namely that she filmed Godard's actual house, and was disappointed, and, worse, critical, that he refused to appear in her film.

If she wanted to meet up with JLG, she might have suggested that no cameras would be involved.

If that episode is just a put-on (that is, she did not film his actual house or expect him to be filmed), it doesn't fit in with the rest of the film. And it still leaves the viewer with a negative view of Godard.

At the NYFF, the first audience question to Varda was about Godard, and, breaking her normally implacable manner, dismissed it, with mild annoyance, as a Film Festival question.

I am not a huge fan of Godard, but regardless of whether this sequence is real or fake, it is disrespectful to him.

The rest of the film is just a glamorization of the other guy's art.

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Re: Dynamic Top Tens of 2017

#14 Post by Oedipax » Wed Nov 08, 2017 5:50 pm

I haven't seen Visages/villages yet, but it's strange to me that a similar episode played out in an as-yet uncompleted Marcel Ophuls documentary about Israel/Palestine that was potentially going to involve Godard. You can see the footage as part of a New York Times story about the film here.

It doesn't seem too much to ask for these filmmakers to leave him alone when he clearly doesn't want to be part of something, in spite of whatever prior statements/commitments might've been made more casually. "Attends cinq minutes, bordel!!!" is pretty funny, though.

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Re: Dynamic Top Tens of 2017

#15 Post by Fiery Angel » Wed Nov 08, 2017 6:18 pm

J Adams wrote:The rest of the film is just a glamorization of the other guy's art.
Congrats, you are the only one to come away from the year's best film thinking that.

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Re: Dynamic Top Tens of 2017

#16 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Nov 08, 2017 6:23 pm

J Adams wrote:Principally because of the Godard episode. I took it seriously, namely that she filmed Godard's actual house, and was disappointed, and, worse, critical, that he refused to appear in her film.
She was deeply emotional regarding his gesture. Frustrated, sad, nostalgic, remorseful. How could you possibly have such an icy reading of all this with a straight face?
J Adams wrote:The rest of the film is just a glamorization of the other guy's art.
...your first documentary, I guess? Also, what makes it just his art? They're collaborating on it the entire time, using his preferred medium and her sensibilities in harmony.

It's interesting that all of your negative feelings toward this film involve some perceived slight toward the men involved with it. Almost as if Varda is a nuisance getting in their way. Very telling.

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Re: Visages, villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)

#17 Post by J Adams » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:23 am

I'm trying to be respectful here.

If she wanted to meet Godard, who is notoriously reclusive, why insist on filming it. Just call him and say "hey let's meet for coffee". He might of said "OK whatevs", but once the cameras were involved he backed off. There is no justification for even mild critization of Godard for backing off of meeting her ON FILM. Yet she goes there.

I cannot imagine actually filming a famous person's house in a film that will be publicly released.
Last edited by J Adams on Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:55 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Visages, villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)

#18 Post by Aunt Peg » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:35 am

J Adams wrote:I'm trying to be respectful here.

If she wanted to meet Godard, who is notoriously reclusive, why insist on filming it. Just call him and say "hey let's meet for coffee". He might of said "OK whatevs", but once the cameras were involved he backed off. There is no justification for even mild critization of Godard for backing off of meeting her ON FILM. Yet she goes there.

I cannot imagine actually filming a famous person's house in a film that will be publicly released.
The irony is that Godard ends up being the 'star' of the picture.

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Re: Visages, villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)

#19 Post by J Adams » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:55 am

Agreed, and that's why Varda was irritated at the NYFF when the first audience question was about Godard.

It's a truly incomprehensible way to end an otherwise OK doc.

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Re: Dynamic Top Tens of 2017

#20 Post by domino harvey » Thu Nov 09, 2017 6:38 am

mfunk9786 wrote:It's interesting that all of your negative feelings toward this film involve some perceived slight toward the men involved with it. Almost as if Varda is a nuisance getting in their way. Very telling.
This is absolutely ridiculous and uncalled for

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Re: Visages, villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)

#21 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Nov 09, 2017 11:13 am

Didn't Michael Moore do something like this? ;-)

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Re: Visages, villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)

#22 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Nov 09, 2017 11:58 am

J Adams wrote:If she wanted to meet Godard, who is notoriously reclusive, why insist on filming it. Just call him and say "hey let's meet for coffee". He might of said "OK whatevs", but once the cameras were involved he backed off. There is no justification for even mild critization of Godard for backing off of meeting her ON FILM. Yet she goes there.
Presumably the two of them agree upon meeting, although this negotiation does indeed happen offscreen. I would be very interested to find out exactly what and how this was discussed between Varda and Godard, but I don't think assuming that this was an ambush is fair to either party without knowing the ways in which they planned this meeting. What I am having difficulty with is drawing so many conclusions about how the ending came to be and the lines it crosses with regard to Godard's privacy, since we don't know (and likely never will) how much of it is real, how much of it isn't, and how it came to be. Varda seemed genuinely gobsmacked by the idea that they'd ridden all the way out there to be met with such a cold shoulder, and I would tend to assume that what we saw was real disappointment at a renege on an arranged-upon meeting between old friends - it is not as if Godard is J.D. Salinger - he is a public figure who has been filmed discussing his or others' art hundreds of times.

As for the question at NYFF - after seeing that film in its entirety, isn't it conceivable that someone might be a little annoyed that the first thing people want to know about is Godard, who doesn't appear outside of a few handwritten words? Yes, it's a significant moment in the film, but it's raw and private (internally, it was obviously filmed) and emotional for all involved, and it is not somehow larger than what came before it.
domino harvey wrote:
mfunk9786 wrote:It's interesting that all of your negative feelings toward this film involve some perceived slight toward the men involved with it. Almost as if Varda is a nuisance getting in their way. Very telling.
This is absolutely ridiculous and uncalled for
Spare me. I said exactly what I meant to say, nothing more, nothing less. J Adams can speak for himself, and he did.

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Re: Visages, villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)

#23 Post by zedz » Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:58 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Presumably the two of them agree upon meeting, although this negotiation does indeed happen offscreen. I would be very interested to find out exactly what and how this was discussed between Varda and Godard, but I don't think assuming that this was an ambush is fair to either party without knowing the ways in which they planned this meeting. What I am having difficulty with is drawing so many conclusions about how the ending came to be and the lines it crosses with regard to Godard's privacy, since we don't know (and likely never will) how much of it is real, how much of it isn't, and how it came to be. Varda seemed genuinely gobsmacked by the idea that they'd ridden all the way out there to be met with such a cold shoulder, and I would tend to assume that what we saw was real disappointment at a renege on an arranged-upon meeting between old friends - it is not as if Godard is J.D. Salinger - he is a public figure who has been filmed discussing his or others' art hundreds of times.
I agree: there's no evidence within the film of any deviousness on Varda's part, and in De ci, de la she pays similar visits to centenarian Manoel de Oliveira and famously reclusive Chris Marker, neither of whom pull Godard's dick move. And I don't know if it's more of a dick move if it's motivated by "I really can't be bothered today" or by the patronising "here's something that will make your film more interesting."

I like the ending of the film that we get - Varda rolls with the sideswipe elegantly - but the ending I presume she envisaged - the last figures standing of the Nouvelle Vague meeting again for what might be the last time - could have been a knockout.

As Varda elaborates in her (excellent) Film Comment interview, the note Godard leaves is intended to be emotionally brutal, containing several coded references to Jacques Demy. She's philosophical about it, but he clearly struck the nerve he was aiming for.

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Re: Visages, villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)

#24 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:28 pm

I'd even afford Godard the courtesy of thinking that maybe that was as nostalgic and emotional as he was willing to be, and that perhaps seeing Varda in such a context might have been too overwhelming for him, and this was his way of admitting it.

One of the things that both charms and saddens me most about old age is that remembrances always seem to move their way inward, from being long and complicated verbal and visual stories in their nascency, to an elderly person (even one who is fully psychologically and intellectually present) sometimes just needing to say someone's name, or the name of a film, or a place, or a song - to communicate to another elderly person the depth of their feelings. This isn't an absolute, as I've certainly been on the receiving end of some meandering stories from relatives, etc - but there's a quiet, icy beauty in the minimalism of the note that Godard left, if we assume he did so without intending to be hurtful.

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Re: Visages, villages (Agnès Varda & JR, 2017)

#25 Post by J Adams » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:23 am

1. I haven't had a chance to speak to Jean-Luc about this, but I can't believe his note was meant to be anything but positive. He is a professional cryptic. What did you expect him to write, "xoxo AgVa--hugz, JeLuGo"? It's been awhile since I read the Film Comment article that, among other things, explains the context of his "message", but I don't recall Varda being offended by the message itself. But if she was, that reflects more badly on Varda. A conventional indication of affection from him seems unlikely. To me it was an intelligent and unconventional way to convey affection and fond memories. And at least he left a note! Beyond filming a brief segment in one of Godard's films 50 years ago and some dinners with Demy, what do we know about the Varda-Godard relationship?

2. My hazy recollection of the film is that Varda, more than once, says that Godard is not a nice man. I think that reflects badly on Varda. Even if he agreed on the phone or whatever to appear in her film. He might have said OK just to get the discussion over with. Godard has nothing to gain, and something to lose, by appearing in this film.

3. I am reminded of the Godard film where someone states that Marguerite Duras is in the next room. And of course she is never shown. OF COURSE. And BTW, MaDu is my all-time favourite director.

4. And I keep forgetting to ask how this episode fits in with the theme of the film. It doesn't.
Last edited by J Adams on Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:48 am, edited 4 times in total.

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