Between projects, Varda and JR make a charming couple. Separated by 55 years, they seem like they’ve been friends their whole lives. They sing together on car rides in JR’s distinctive van painted to look like a camera, and chat on park benches while the too-short-to-touch-the-ground Varda adorably swings her legs. She puts plenty of herself in her documentaries and this one is no exception. With a few years of life left at the time of filming (she died in 2019), she’s gently macabre about her looming death and includes footage of her having procedures done as she contemplates the end. Though indifferent about death itself, she does want to repair some relationships before it’s too late, particularly that with past collaborator Jean Luc Goddard. In addition to the question of whether or not her venerable counterpart is going to appear on camera, the film comes ready-made with another arc, as Varda begs JR to take off his sunglasses and let her see his eyes, something he doesn’t do for anyone as part of his personal schtick. She seems to be a completely open book, and this piece of withholding drives her mad, or at least as mad as such a petite fairy-tale creature can be.
Faces Places is primarily a superb hang-out film. Besides the approaching death of a woman who’s lived an eventful and full life and the general passage of time, there’s nothing so weighty to be contemplated or some human drama to plumb the depths of. It’s two lovely people meeting more lovely people and bringing the camera along with them. Varda and JR make it look easy. A