The Gleaners and I (2000)

The Gleaners and I (2000)

A documentary about the rural past that explores how we might shape our futures with technology and tenderness

7.9

Movie

France
French
Documentary
2000
AGNÈS VARDA, AGNÈS VARDA
Agnès Varda, Agnès Varda, Bodan Litnanski
82 min

What it's about

Varda focuses her eye on gleaners: those who scour already-reaped fields for the odd potato or turnip. Her investigation leads 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.

The take

Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (The Gleaners and I) is one of the late Agnès Varda’s great documentaries. The film follows “gleaners”—scavengers and collectors of discarded garbage or abandoned items—from the French countryside into the city. The first of Varda’s subjects recalls, “Gleaning, that’s the old way,” marking a clear distinction: old versus new, rural versus urban, wasted versus repurposed.

Fans of Varda will recognize the signature tenderness with which she approaches both her subjects and their objects. Those new to her work will be sure to find something familiar in this documentary: a film largely about loss, but which approaches its ideas of modernization and time with humor and lightness. Among the rubble, there is joy yet to be found—and in this documentary, there is a great comfort, too, to be gleaned.

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