- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Faces Places

| January 5, 2018

Do you ever want to feel artistically superior to all of your friends? Maybe you are tired of your friends talking about how great the latest action film is and want to sound better. Maybe you want to impress your date with obscure film trivia. Maybe you think that knowing a lot about film history and art will somehow validate your meaningless existence and will replace that ever-growing pit in your heart that tells you that you don’t matter and no one cares about you. Well, don’t worry! Because I watch a bunch of art house films and can give you recommendations on what to watch and what to feel superior about! So without any delay, let’s get pretentious!

Whelp. Fuck it. I don’t get it. Sorry. I choose to watch this film because it has been on my radar since it released. And now it is considered a frontrunner for Best Documentary, and there have been some seriously good documentaries this year. So I had to check it out. Caught one of the last screenings I could find. Bundled into the small theater and my god what an insanely boring film. I don’t like using that word when reviewing a film, “boring”. But it is really the only word that I can come up with to describe watching this film.

Faces Places is a documentary co-directed by contemporary artist/photographer JR and cinema legend Agnes Varda. The film follows the two of them as they travel around France meeting people and pasting art across various buildings and places around the country. The real issue I have with the film is that this could have easily been a really good seven-minute long short film. But instead, it’s an hour and a half.

There is really no variety to the film. After the two do the first art installation, you really see everything the film has to offer. After that first installation, you understand what they are doing, you see the process of putting the art up, and you see the reaction of the subject. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change from there. They then go to the next location and repeat the same process. You understand what they are doing, you see the process of putting the art up, and you see the reaction. None of these three steps is very different from location to location, with the exception of one piece on a beach. Thankfully the film is short enough to make this not detrimental.

Another issue I have with the film might only be an issue I have and is surrounding the idea of what a documentary stands for. In my mind, a documentary is giving truth to a subject. And because of this, I have a problem with obviously fabricated elements in a documentary. And that ranges from the story being fabricated to elements such as sound dubbing and re-shoots. I like it when a documentary needs to put in subtitles or the cameraman goes the extra mile to get an angle. And when there are scenes in this film where it has clearly gone through ADR, that bothers me. It takes me out and it makes me question the authenticity of the film. But again, that might be a problem that only affects me.

One thing that I do appreciate about the film, and is probably something that the filmmakers didn’t intend, is how the subjects react whenever the piece of art goes up. Now of course when it goes up some of the subjects are very grateful and are moved by it. But more often than not, the subjects just kind of stand there awkwardly and giving the “I don’t get it, but it clearly means a lot to you” face. Now I’m very well versed in this face. I went to an art based high school and am currently attending an Art College. I know this look, I’ve seen it at myself and I’ve seen it at others. The look has the eyes of confusion with a slight smile. This continues with a brief moment of silence. Then a “wow”, then the person will tell them how good of a job they did without really mentioning the piece. It happens almost every time with this film and every time it is equally hilarious.

The film will hit at something that sounds like it is taking a detour to another angle. Like Varda asking JR if his art stops him from having meaningful relationships. Or Varda starting to self-reflect on mortality and if it scares her. But it never goes beyond hinting. It’s just flashes in the pan of something far more interesting. But instead, we have a film funded by MoMA about two huge artists that most non-art people have never heard of. Following these two going to these non-art people and doing modern art that they can’t understand or appreciate. Directed by a woman who doesn’t care if it connects and creates for the sake of it, and a man so egotistically that he can’t tell that others don’t think he is as cool as he does.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.

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