FACES PLACES Could Win Best Documentary Oscar

Kernel Emma, our resident lover of all documentaries and/ or foreign films, has viewed another treat and reviewed for us. FACES PLACES is out now and screening exclusively at Dendy Cinemas. This Cannes Award Winner for Best Documentary is out now from Madman Films on a very limited release, it runs for 89mins and is rated G. It could also become an Oscar winner being nominated this week for Best Documentary. Check out the screening details HERE.

Enjoy Emma’s review…….all the best……Salty.



FACES PLACES is the latest and likely the last film to star the great Agnes Varda – an 89-year-old filmmaker famously known as the only female director of the French New Wave. The peculiar French film documents the unlikely relationship she forms with hip, young French photographer and street artist JR, as they travel through rural France in pursuit of subjects for their collaborative project. Finding stories in the most ordinary and unusual places, the cross-generational duo bring the experiences of the working class to life – plastering their subjects’ photos to the very walls around them. Warm, unusual and full of personality, FACES PLACES is an entertaining watch guaranteed to delight anyone who loves art and everyday stories.


Faces Place Movie image
Agnes Varda and JR



Right from the documentary’s offset it’s clear that the relationship between Varda and JR is going to be entertaining. JR is kind and quirky, hiding behind his sunglasses which he refuses to remove throughout the film. What Agnes lacks in size she makes up for in personality, with her coloured bowl cut and eccentric fashion. With over 50 years between them and an equal curiosity for finding art in the ordinary, the peculiar personalities provide an interesting balance in perspective. The two artists agree to leave the best part of the project to chance as they set off in JR’s van, which doubles as a photo booth. The creative vehicle is designed to look like a camera and features equipment which prints life-sized black and white images of the people he meets as he travels Europe.


Faces Place Movie image


From a local coal mine, to a family-run dairy farm dedicated to looking after its goats, JR and Varda visit local places striking up conversation with the unassuming inhabitants. The coal miners, who usually work in silos, are pictured together as a team, and a farmer’s photo is blown up to the size of his barn, letting locals know who runs the business. The pair travel to a beautiful little seaside village and photograph a middle-aged woman, in turn transforming the once quiet town into a popular destination for tourists. But capturing mass attention is in no way the objective of the project. Never fascinated with creating a spectacle or sensationalising stories, the collaboration succeeds because the pair are genuinely fascinated with the everyday.


Faces Place Movie image
Agnes Varda and JR



While the film is at times slow and largely observational, there is a brilliant story that unfolds as the pair’s relationship grows. Varda exudes more and more personality over the course of the film, while JR provides the perfect balance of curiosity and humour to provoke interesting dialogue. Varda never strays from asking honest questions; it’s her natural talent for making the unremarkable interesting that results in the best interactions with local people.

With such a significant age gap between the two artists, it’s only natural that the subject of getting old comes up. The trip clearly takes its toll on Varda and at times she struggles to walk towards the end of the day. Instead of complaining, Varda speaks frankly and humorously about old age, reminiscing about many of the interesting experiences she has had in favour of fearing the end. Many of these rather reflective conversations between young and old become an interesting aid in driving the narrative of the film overall.


Faces Places Agnes Varda image
Agnes Varda



The highlight of the film comes as the pair visit Le Havre – a port scattered with shipping containers which is largely dominated by its male workers. Uninterested in the workers themselves, Varda instead decides to call a meeting with their wives. Tough, hard-working and full of personality, the women are interviewed and their photos blown up to the size of the shipping crates. A series of shots following the installation shows the women posing in front of their photos and sitting inside the crates reflecting on life. This is perhaps the film’s best and most touching scene.

FACES PLACES never really draws to a dramatic conclusion, however unusually it ends as the pair attempt to pay a visit to the great French director Jean-Luc Goddard – a close friend of Varda. When Goddard stands the pair up, Varda is visibly upset and proceeds to sit on the beach with JR, where the pair share a reflective, heart-warming conversation. The film ends as JR comforts her and removes his glasses for the first time in the film.





Kernel Emma is documentary mad and also loves foreign and films ! She is Salty’s honorary NooooZealanderrrr writer, but she hides out in Sydney saying sex, fush and chups to everyone’s amusement.

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.