The Gleaners And I

  • 2000
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

Rather than retire quietly into old age, Agnès Varda, the seventy-something doyenne of French cinema, picked up a digital video camera, hopped in a car and went hunting for scavengers. Inspired by Jean-François Millet's famous 19th-century painting "Les Glaneuses," Varda set out to explore the world of gleaners, men and women (although traditionally, gleaners...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Rather than retire quietly into old age, Agnès Varda, the seventy-something doyenne of French cinema, picked up a digital video camera, hopped in a car and went hunting for scavengers. Inspired by Jean-François Millet's famous 19th-century painting "Les Glaneuses," Varda set out to explore the world of gleaners, men and women (although traditionally, gleaners were primarily women) who move in once the harvest is over and forage for passed over crops. It's a humbling way of life, and one that, as Varda discovers in this wonderful, 80-minute essay, has survived in surprising ways. From collecting outsized potatoes left to rot in a field in Beauce and picking grapes shriveling on a vine in Burgandy to supermarket Dumpster diving in Paris, people continue to stoop and sift to survive. Varda also uncovers some interesting facts (it's legal to glean on private property) and meets some fascinating people, like artist Louis Pons, an inveterate gleaner who constructs elaborate pieces out of found objects, and the eccentric gentleman who trolls Paris's fruit stalls in the early morning and volunteers his time teaching French to Senegalese immigrants at night. Varda remains a warm, vibrant presence throughout, and she mixes her perceptive social commentary (the wasteful economy of food is her primary target) with a touching bit of memoir; in gleaning, she's found a perfect metaphor for her own life and art. Early evidence of Varda's affection for bricolage can be found in L'Opera-Mouffe, a small masterpiece from 1958 that's also on the bill. Varda, who shot this 17-minute film in and around Paris's ancient rue Mouffetard, collects bits of documentary-style street scenes, lyrically shot sequences of young lovers in bed and playful, ingenious imagery. The haunting result, subtitled "Diary of a Pregnant Woman," is the visual equivalent of a song cycle, and reflects life on one of Paris's oldest streets and Varda's own expectant condition. (In French, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Rather than retire quietly into old age, Agnès Varda, the seventy-something doyenne of French cinema, picked up a digital video camera, hopped in a car and went hunting for scavengers. Inspired by Jean-François Millet's famous 19th-century painting "Les Gl… (more)
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