Documenteur

Documenteur ★★★★

Varda’s most singular gift as an artist is her empathetic curiosity. She is an unparalleled social observer and this is a film of social observation. It is fiction presented, to an extent, as fact - or perhaps ‘as prosaic’ would work better.

Where most use the possibilities of fiction for narrative and drama, Varda uses it here to create a kind of composite slice of reality. It is not real, but the constructed element gives you a unique, empathetic access to the everyday. This focuses on showing Los Angeles, a town synonymous with film, and then showing you the bits film doesn’t show. It is unseen stories in unseen parts - and is the stronger for it.

The heart of this is just the relationship of a single mother and her son - wider interactions mirroring back onto this emotional core. This is all beautifully observed and faultlessly natural. The end result of all of this is a unique and charming film full of love and joy but also not blind to hardship and struggle.

It is the prosaic and the banal, presented as purposefully purposeless, aided by disaffected (and wittily written) narration. The brilliance here though is in how it finds reason and necessity through human connection and sheer normality.

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