Faces Places (French: Visages Villages) is the ultimate vlog, blown up onto the big screen and spanning 89 meaningful minutes. It’s the first film premiere taking place during the Francophone Festival in Singapore this year.
Vlogs have exploded over the past few years – anyone can attest to that. Like all forms of entertainment, vlogs are based upon a story, though told in a personal format. Someone’s virgin expedition to the Everest base camp; a flight in an airline many can only dream of; or a couple smearing makeup on one another. No matter how simple or trite, the intimate narrative is what draws every viewer in.
However, these video blogs have long been criticised for their futility and lack of focus. Many creators are shamelessly churning out cynical ‘cash-grabs’ at lightning speed. They document virtually anything, just to attract enough eyeballs to make them more appealing to their next sponsor.
That being said, there is a level of empowerment that vlogs do offer. The barriers to creating a vlog are minuscule. Voices which have always been muffled can now be heard everywhere loud and clear (some unfortunately to deafening degree). Almost anyone can narrate their own tale and listen to others, and this connects us as a people in this modern era.
Faces Places perfectly executes the three most important aspects of a vlog: a personal narrative, interesting personalities, and an intimate style of film-making.
The unique format of the film involves two artists- one a renowned film director and the other an Instagram-famous street photographer – both travelling to rural France and talking to village folk.
The overlying narrative of the film is the two artists’ collaborative project to honour people and their homes. It is spellbinding to watch the two in their thought processes and take steps towards creating their art-pieces.
Throughout the 89 minute runtime, the film never has a dull moment. The interviewees manage to evoke emotion from the audience through their captivating stories of hardship and their roots as a people.
The narratives that run throughout Faces Places manage to transcend the regular documentation of one’s personal lifestyle by reaching out to those that are not often heard. Their trials and triumphs are unique and original – just as intriguing or if not more, compared to those who boast more “interesting” life stories that reek of power, fame and fortune.
Grounded in timeless values of home and hard-work, scenes in Faces Places can morph into dramatic and comedic moments seamlessly. It provides quality entertainment in the purest of forms, which is rare even in the most renowned vlogs on YouTube!
The filmmakers use their expert creative vision to frame beautiful travel and scenic shots, but that is as showy as the documentary gets.
Faces Places is keen on being very accessible to its viewers; The interactions are candid and the jargon simple. While its shots are expertly planned, they are created to bring us closer and involve us in their adventure.
Unlike the run-of-the-mill vlog, Faces Places is the opposite of narcissistic. The protagonists shine the spotlight on the villagers – an act of true artists who are confident that their work will speak volumes for itself.
In Faces Places, we get to follow veteran French film director Agnes Varda and street artist JR. They both have magnetic personalities; The charisma that they possess is a characteristic often overlooked in most artists, though it is of utmost importance to their craft. Varda and JR are adept when it comes to relating to individuals such as the ones who they meet during their travels and seem to put a smile on every face they come across.
The pair does appear to be stark contrasts of one another, however. On one hand, there is Varda, a gentle and sweet elderly woman who shuffles about with her tiny feet. JR is cool, stylish and energetic, bouncing from one place to the next.
Despite the contradiction in their appearance and age, the pair is similar in ways. They are both savant’s in the art of creating images. They share a lively sense of humour conveyed through their banter.
There is also a parallel between JR’s constant donning of his sunglasses and Varda’s fading eyesight; despite their mastery in visualizing pictures that are relished by the masses, their own perception of the world is still imperfect.
It is their differences that makes their dynamic so compelling to watch. The two have candid conversations which convey some of their diverging views. However, their bond grows, and they use their differences as a driving force in their creative journey.
What we are being treated to at the Alliance Française is an opportunity to appreciate various communities and become more cultured individuals in the classiest of fashions.
To revel in more culturally potent and unique stories, head to the Alliance Française (1 Sarkies Rd, Singapore 258130), on any given Tuesday at 8pm for their weekly CINÉ CLUB film screenings!