Thursday, October 31, 2013
The Gleaners and I / Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (2000)
The Gleaners and I (French: Les glaneurs et la glaneuse, "The gleaners and the female gleaner") is a French documentary by Agnès Varda that features various kinds of gleaning. It was entered into competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival ("Official Selection 2000"), and later went on to win awards around the world.
Agnès Varda, Grande Dame of the French New Wave, has made a non-fiction film-a self-described "wandering-road documentary." Beginning with the famous Jean-François Millet painting of women gathering wheat left over from a harvest, she focuses her ever-seeking eye on gleaners: those who scour already-reaped fields for the odd potato or turnip. Her investigation leads us from forgotten corners of the French countryside to off-hours at the green markets of Paris, following those who insist on finding a use for that which society has cast off, whether out of necessity or activism. Varda's own ruminations on her life as a filmmaker (a gleaner of sorts) give her a connection to her subjects that creates a touching human portrait that the L.A. Weekly deemed "a protest film that's part social critique, part travelogue, but always an unsentimental celebration of human resilience."
The film tracks a series of gleaners as they hunt for food, knicknacks and personal connection. Varda travels French countryside of America and city to find and film not only field gleaners, but also urban gleaners and those connected to gleaners, including a wealthy restaurant owner whose ancestors were gleaners. The film spends time capturing the many aspects of gleaning and the many people who glean to survive. One such person is the teacher named Alain, an urban gleaner with a master's degree who teaches French to immigrants. Varda's other subjects include artists who incorporate recycled materials into their work, symbols she discovers during her filming (including a clock without hands and a heart-shaped potato), and the French law regarding gleaning. Varda also spends time with Louis Pons, who explains how junk is a "cluster of possibilities". This film has an unexpected brief interview with the psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche.