In this film, the legendary director Varda and the photographer, muralist, and street artist JR team up to document their unique road trip across France. Taking to the highways, the pair visits small towns in a van tricked out to look like a camera, which contains a large-scale photo printer. Varda finds subjects for JR to photograph, and his images of these farmers, factory workers, and longshoremen’s wives are used like wallpaper to cover local buildings, shipping containers, and brick walls, affording a public identity to those who usually remain unknown. For Varda the journey also evokes memories of her married life with filmmaker Jacques Demy, her admiration for the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, and the considerable influence of director Jean-Luc Godard, which still permeates French cinema.
Varda’s filmography includes introspective narrative works that showcase the stories of women, such as Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962), Vagabond (1985), and Kung-fu Master! (1988). Throughout her career, she also directed documentaries. Like her narrative films, they dig into lives whose minor stories become monumental once memorialized by Varda. Daguerréotypes (1976) investigates the shop owners of the rue Daguerre, a small Paris street; in 2000’s The Gleaners and I, Varda comments on wastefulness in contemporary life via an examination of the struggle of the poor in modern-day France. Varda was awarded an honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015; in 2017 she received an honorary Academy Award.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)