Envision a large truck sporting a giant mural of a traditional film camera on its side. The mural includes a physical slot that spits out huge black-and-white photos of the people photographed inside the truck’s photo booth.
Now place into the passenger seat 89-year-old Agnès Varda, a Frenchwoman with a two-tone pageboy haircut – white on top and auburn on the bottom. Varda is a famous French artist and filmmaker, one of the leading artists of the French New Wave of the 1950s and the 1960s. She is still vibrant, sparkly and actively creating visual art.
Add behind the driver’s seat 33-year-old Frenchman JR, a talented photographer and muralist. Like his traveling partner, he is also an established visual artist.
Have these strangers commit to taking a long road trip with each other inside this camera truck, driving around France, taking large pictures of people and installing them around the countryside as murals.
You now understand the backbone of the award-winning “Faces Places.”
This film is obviously not your typical road-movie-slash-documentary.
Intrigued? The Grand County Public Library and the Utah Film Center will present a free screening of “Faces Places” on Thursday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. at Star Hall, 159 E. Center St. This French documentary is rated PG and has English subtitles.
“Because we always keep an eye out for quality films about music and art, we felt this film would be heartily enjoyed by our Moab audience,” Grand County Public Library Assistant Jessie Magleby said. “… Moab has a great current of creativity and is home to many artists of all types, (so) this cheerful and unusual film about art and photography feels like a good fit.”
JR and Varda’s work is made to delight and celebrate common men and women, in small towns like our own, Magleby said.
“What could be more fun than traveling around rural France with this pair, watching as they lift people and communities up with their art and become dear friends in the process?” she asked. After seeing one of their enormous portrait installations, one character sums it up well: ‘It is surprising, and art is meant to surprise us.’ Come prepared to be surprised and charmed by this duo and their unique art-project-on-wheels.”
“As soon as we heard that Agnès Varda and JR were doing a project together, we knew we had to screen the film,” Utah Film Center Film Program Coordinator David Eyer Davis said. “With the Grand County library, we try and pick great films that you’re otherwise not going to see, and this one’s a perfect example. It is maybe not something that sounds inherently interesting, but the end result is wonderful.”
“Faces Places” won the Golden Eye Prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and the People’s Choice (Documentary) at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. It is also an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature.
The film follows kindred spirits Varda and JR as they express their passion for images and how images are created, displayed and shared. As they travel through the villages of France, they talk with the people who live there, learn their stories, and take colossal photos of them.
Afterwards, they display these giant photos on houses, barns, storefronts and trains around France. These portraits reveal not only the humanity of the subjects, but also the humanity of these two artists.
Interestingly, both Varda and JR were familiar with each other’s work but didn’t actually know each other before starting this project.
They, too, are subjects in their documentary. We hear them express their own thoughts and feelings as they carry out their project. Over the course of their road trip, we watch as they develop an unlikely but heartwarming relationship.
“These two artists are so likable, fun and genuine,” Davis said. “To be a fly on the wall with them as they tool around the French countryside is a treat, a cinematic vacation. Let Star Hall transport you to France for an evening; you won’t regret it!”
Free movie to screen at Star Hall on Feb. 15
“… Moab has a great current of creativity and is home to many artists of all types, (so) this cheerful and unusual film about art and photography feels like a good fit.”
When: Thursday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m.
Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.