Leave it to 89-year-old Agnès Varda to make the zippiest, zestiest documentary of the year, a worthy successor to her late-career, notebook-like masterpieces THE GLEANERS & I and THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS. This time she takes along as her companion and co-director the photographer and installation artist JR, whose omnipresent dark glasses remind Varda of her former New Wave compatriot Jean-Luc Godard (who will figure in the film's bittersweet climax). Agnès and JR zigzag across northern France in his van/photo-booth, taking large-format pictures of the people they meet and turning them into gargantuan murals plastered on the sides of buildings, railroad cars, and cargo containers. The pattern of these spontaneous encounters seems almost random, but collectively they form an evocative mosaic that captures the spirit of present-day, working-class France. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
2017, Agnès Varda and JR, France, 89 min.
"Enormously pleasurable." - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
"A powerful, complex and radical work." - A.O. Scott, The New York Times
This Is Our Land
2017, Lucas Belvaux, France/Belgium, 118 min. With Émilie Dequenne, André Dussollier.
"The poisonous playbooks of populist politics are compellingly dramatized." - Neil Young, Hollywood Reporter
"Solidly made...a film that deserves to be seen, thought about, and learned from." - Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily
With its explicit references to Marine Le Pen and the Front National, THIS IS OUR LAND quickly became the most controversial film of the year in France, although its convincing depiction of how right-wing "populist" movements soft-pedal their extremist positions has much wider relevance. The story centers on Pauline (Dequenne, who debuted in the Dardenne Brothers' ROSETTA), a well-liked nurse in a northern French town who is recruited by the "Renewed Nation Party" as an ideally inoffensive candidate to run for mayor. Flattered, the essentially apolitical Pauline goes along, submitting to an image makeover that includes dyeing her brown hair a more electable blonde. But her burgeoning political career begins to conflict with her personal life - when her left-wing union-loyalist father disowns her, and when her image-conscious political handlers try to quash her rekindled romance with an old high-school sweetheart who, unbeknownst to her, has ties to a neo-Nazi movement. In French with English subtitles. Courtesy of Distrib Films. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)
Wednesday, March 28: This screening is a Movie Club event, facilitated by Alison Cuddy, Artistic Director of the Chicago Humanities Festival.