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Faces Places (free)

  • Vilas Hall 821 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

A progenitor of the French New Wave and one of the most accomplished living filmmakers, octogenarian Agnès Varda has not only left an indelible mark with the innovative and arresting narratives of Cléo From 5 To 7 (1962) and Le Bonheur (1965), but she's also vividly explored the documentary format for 50 years. A decade ago, she produced her own autobiography with The Beaches Of Agnès (2008) in Belgium, and her passions have also carried her abroad for a kaleidoscopic portrait of Los Angeles' street art in Mural Murals (1980). The latter seems relevant when reviewing her latest award-winning venture, Faces Places, which kicks off the spring 2018 UW Cinematheque calendar (in shrewd documentary tradition) with its Madison premiere on Friday and bonus encore screening on Saturday at 5 p.m. A spiritual evolution of Mural Murals in both name and premise, Faces Places finds Varda collaborating and finding friendship with enigmatic young "photograffeur" JR as they embark on a rollicking road trip through rural France. Inspired by the working class in their travels, the unconventional duo turns the citizens' likenesses into lavish, loving large-scale art installations on public and private structures like barns, apartment buildings, and even shipping containers by means of JR's distinctive photobooth van, which is decorated to look like a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. The charming, episodic film has earned strong reviews for its simultaneously relaxed rhythm and attentive eye. Faces Places can be appreciated as a sort of travelogue, a magnetic look at the intersection of two artistic mediums, but also as a meditation on the grand function of art and changing face of Europe's working population. —Grant Phipps

Later Event: January 27
Daughter Of The Nile (free)