Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I)

Poster for Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I)

Winter 2011 Documentary series

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by Agnès Varda

Screenplay by Agnès Varda

Starring François Wertheimer, Agnès Varda and Bodan Litnanski

Rated G · 1h 22m

View trailer

Les glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I)

“A side-door entrance into the French character and economy, Agnès Varda’s eccentric and thoroughly winning The Gleaners and I is jam-packed with information, personalities, and affecting images, and its downbeat, slightly bedraggled air is perfectly married with its subject. Varda spent nearly a year touring France with a small crew and several tiny DV cameras, capturing the people who scavenge and salvage the food and objects left behind by others. Gleaning is protected by law in France, but the laws vary from province to province, from potato fields to oyster beds, and from private property to public space.

For some of the interviewees, gleaning is their only means of sustenance. Others, like the chef of a two-star restaurant or the painter whose work is collaged from found objects, glean out of frugality, ecological commitment, aesthetic beliefs, or an aversion to middlemen and conventional trade practices. If gleaning cuts across class lines, it doesn’t necessarily obliterate class differences. At one point, Varda wonders, skeptically, whether the privileged children who use recycled paper and plastic in their crafts class have ever shaken hands with their neighborhood garbage collectors.

In her travels, Varda visits a descendant of Etienne Jules Marey (the 19th-century photographer and pre-cinema experimenter), who keeps one of his great-great-grandfather’s “riflecameras” in his farmhouse basement, and Jean Laplanche, the psychoanalyst and writer, who looks after the gleaners in the vineyards he inherited from his father. While Laplanche shrinks into his chair with embarrassment, his wife of 50 years explains that she was analyzed by Lacan [French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist (1901-1981), considered by some as the most controversial since Freud] so she would better understand her husband’s work.

Tied together by Varda’s voice-over narration, the film allows all kinds of digressions from its central subject: whether individuals can sustain themselves on society’s discards and waste. Throughout, Varda likens her filmmaking to the gleaning of ideas and images from interior and exterior journeys. A woman in her early seventies working in a profession that is as youth-oriented and male-dominated as when her first feature, Cléo From 5 to 7 (1962), made her the only female director of the New Wave, Varda is in some ways as marginal as most of her subjects. ‘I have the feeling that I’m an animal,’ she comments over a close-up of her wrinkled hand, accidentally caught by her own camera. ‘Worse, an animal I do not know.’ ” Amy Taubin, The Village Voice