Times change, and the members of various “New Waves” are not so young anymore. Many rebels of yesteryear have become the conservative critics of today. Agnès Varda is not one of them. The most prominent woman filmmaker associated with the French “Nouvelle Vague,” she has been active since the 1950s, signing her name to both documentaries and fiction features. Although she is now over seventy, she has not lost any of her curiosity about the world or her enthusiasm for new filmmaking technologies.
In September 1999, delighted with the mini DV camera’s potential for intimacy and flexibility, she set off on a road trip around France. Her subject: modern-day gleaners, people who live from what others have discarded or left behind. In the 19th century, women gleaning in the fields was a favourite subject of realist painting. Varda begins her film by looking at the most famous of these canvases and talking to people who still gather the leftovers of the harvest: potatoes, apples, grapes, and more. But the film soon broadens its subject to include many other kinds of gatherers and recyclers who live off the spoils of post-industrial society.
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