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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
At one point in this unusual and very interesting documentary by French New Wave director Agnes Varda (born, 1928!) she ties it together by showing art made from "gleaned" articles--that is, trash thrown away and made into objects of art by artists.
Of course it is trite to recall that "one man's trash is another man's treasure," but it is so. How dearly archeologists love ancient midden sites, and how much we can learn about the ancients from their trash. But Varda is here to show us that we can also learn a lot about modern people from what they throw away, and from what is gleaned, and from the gleaners themselves. I thought the guy who ate (grazed almost) as he went through the market place after closing was interesting. Clearly going through the trash is something instinctive with humans: no doubt it comes from our prehistoric past when we were hunters and gatherers.
The main focus here is on gleaning fruits and vegetables left behind by mechanized pickers. It is interesting to note that there are laws going back hundreds of years that regulate gleaners. (Varda puts a French lawyer on camera to quote some relevant law.) I was fascinated to see that there are dumpster divers in France. In America dumpster diving has been a big deal since at least the sixties. Today there are Web sites devoted to dumpster diving, and I personally know some people who dumpster dive for fun and profit. It was also interesting to see just which fruits and vegetable are gleaned from the ground and from the trees and vines and plants left after the harvest, and to hear from the people who do the gleaning. Varda shows mounds of potatoes left behind, and we learn that both potatoes too small and potatoes too big are discarded by the producers. (In America, large potatoes are not only not discarded, they bring a higher price.) Interesting too were her interviews with French gypsies and others who derive a good part of their subsistence from gleaning.
I enjoyed seeing parts of France not normally seen on the screen or by tourists. In fact in some ways this documentary could serve as a kind of travelog so widely does Varda and her camera travel about the French countryside and cities.
See this for the Grande Dame of French cinema, Agnes Varda, auteur of the innovative documentary Cléo from 5 to 7 (1961) and other films who is now 77 years old and still going strong.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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