Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Movie a Day, day 80: The Gleaners and I

Like The Beaches of Agnès, The Gleaners and I is a lightfooted meditation from an aging master so comfortable with her medium that her work feels like play. Hopscotching from one French town or agricultural center to the next, Agnès Varda leads us on a seriously joyful journey of discovery in The Gleaners and I, which winds up covering a lot of ground despite its apparently spontaneous structure.

Varda shot much of the film herself with a then-new compact digital video camera (the film was released in 2001), which she shows it off early on with typical enthusiasm. Her ultra-portable camera and skeleton crew (the list of credits is impressively small for such a big name) presumably helped her gain access to the many gleaners she interviews, but I bet it was her unfeigned interest that got them to open up the way they do. As Varda says in the film, she's fascinated by gleaners because she is one, though she gathers "images, impressions" rather than furniture or food.

The Gleaners and I is part guided tour, teaching us about a world that's nearly invisible to most who don't live in it, but it never feels didactic. Read the rest on The House Next Door, Slant Magazine's blog.

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