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The Gleaners & I (2000)

Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (original title)
An intimate, picaresque inquiry into French life as lived by the country's poor and its provident, as well as by the film's own director, Agnes Varda. The aesthetic, political and moral ... See full summary »

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Storyline

An intimate, picaresque inquiry into French life as lived by the country's poor and its provident, as well as by the film's own director, Agnes Varda. The aesthetic, political and moral point of departure for Varda are gleaners, those individuals who pick at already-reaped fields for the odd potato, the leftover turnip. Written by Anonymous

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7 July 2000 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Die Sammler und die Sammlerin  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$12,655 (USA) (9 March 2001)

Gross:

$149,834 (USA) (13 July 2001)
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1.33 : 1
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Connections

Followed by The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later (2002) See more »

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Composed by Pierre Barbaud
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More than the will to
2 December 2015 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

This is Varda going out again with just a camera. This time she finds vagrants and gatherers of all kinds around the streets of France, some who pick up after discarded harvests in the fields, others who find their objects of art or utility in what people abandon in the street corner.

There's a French history of "gleaning" that she references via paintings of women picking up wheat in the fields, that is of course her entry into images of life she gleans with her camera, herself a gatherer, but in another way it is to situate what we see as a certain rite of life with its continuity, something that people do.

So I like that we're called to see beyond desperation here, though at a glance many of these lives will seem dismal. Varda has taken an interest in itinerant lives for a long time as previous films by her suggest, Vagabond most notably, and she has the sensitivity of empathizing. We do see a few troubled individuals, because life kind of swung that way before they had a chance to hold on perhaps. But we also see a life that manages just fine for itself and roots itself in the other, something like the anti-ego philosophy of one of the people in the film.

None of them are vexed to live as they do, that we see anyway, and it manages to remind me of the ancient Taoist injunctions to forego the anxieties for "humanity" and "responsibility", often hypocritical, and make yourself like a clump of earth that goes on without minding. We manage to fret quite a bit after all as we do our own gathering of important things, though god knows to what real purpose.

This is a small film that will appear at times purposeless or addled, in that Varda doesn't aspire for more than what the ground will turn up for her, but she picks it all up with care and has fun with it. She doesn't just see a social issue here and we're better off for it. How much richer the landscape of film would be if more filmmakers would just go out with a cheap camcorder? It isn't the topical subject, any TV crew could film that, it's gracing us with a way of seeing.


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