Projections - Movie Reviews

The Gleaners & I

If you've been curious at times to take notice of what others have left behind, and have taken some of it home, you may be drawn to Agnes Varda's unusual, yet beautiful, The Gleaners & I.

Her French film with English subtitles proves surprisingly inspirational as gleaning isn't just gathering produce from reapers, but learning a little at a time about the world as the film maker probes intelligently into customs and laws with a strong appreciation for the visual artistry of those who scavenge for those less fortunate.

Varda displays a vivacity as she moves around the French countryside and talks with gleaners in vineyards, orchards, farms and even an agora in Paris which sells fruits and vegetables.  Varda has very wrinkled hands which she ponders over and doesn't hesitate to eat fruit which is as worn as her hands.  The strong willed woman sets up a charity to gather unused potatoes for the needy.  In this oddly moving look in many areas of contemporary France, Varda presents an appetizing journey of gleaners and paintings of them by French and Belgian artists.

Discovering the digital mini-camera, this reflective canvas of world cinema considers at one point the director's intentions of being like a clock with no hands.

Some of the entertainment value of The Gleaners & I touches on a couple attorneys, one urban and the other rural, who have opinions on the legal aspects of gleaning, and the Dance of the Lens Cap which is part of a fifteen minute film Varda filmed herself.  A strange, but amusing long tracking shot of the ground has the dangling lens cap acting as a pendulum on the screen, though it's not really done intentionally and works for comedic effect.

Filmed over a seven month period from late 1999 into early Spring 2000, The Gleaners & I sometimes feels like an artistic, altruistic spin on Marc Singer's Dark Days.  Varda is fascinated by gleaners, including those who go to find where vegetables are dumped by farmers.

In essence, what has been trash for some is the basis for a kind of eclectic, sometimes amusing harvest by the elderly crafty director who knows that the romanticism from portraits of gleaners long ago may not be easily passed to future artists.  Yet, what is done with what is valued whether on the streets or in the fields will most likely take shape for those who ironically find vitality in rummaging like a flea market groupie.

 
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The Gleaners & I
 
 
 
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