The Gleaners and I (Les glaneurs et la glaneuse)

Miami Beach Cinematheque. October 29th, 2009. 8:30 p.m.

The French film The Gleaners and I (Les glaneurs et la glaneuse), directed by Agnès Varda  will be screened at the Miami Beach Cinematheque on October 29th, 2009 at 8:30 p.m.

Voted the best documentary by the National Society of Film Critics, among other awards, Agnès Varda’s universally acclaimed ‘wandering-road documentary’ 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.

The film tracks a series of gleaners as they hunt for food, knicknacks, and personal connection. Varda travels French countryside 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”.

The film is notable for its use of a hand-held camera and for its unusual camera angles and techniques. In one particular scene Varda, the filmmaker, forgets to turn off her camera. As the camera hangs to her side the filming proceeds, and the viewer can see the shifting ground and the dangling lens cap with a jazz music background. Varda calls this shot “The Dance of the Lens Cap”.

In The Gleaners and I, Varda films herself combing her newly discovered gray hair, and there are many visuals of her aging hands. She frequently “catches” trucks on the freeway, placing her hand in front of the camera in the ASL sign for “o”, with the truck in the center of her hand, then closing in on them as she drives past them.

Much of this footage is woven into the film to show that Varda, as a filmmaker, is also a gleaner. This concept is made explicit in the French title, Les glaneurs et la glaneuse, which could be translated as “the gleaners and the gleaneress”.

Miami Beach Cinematheque
512 Española Way
Miami Beach, FL 33139

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