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The Gleaners and I Reviews

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Super Reviewer

July 5, 2010
a lovely documentary/road movie on the theme of recycling society's castoffs. director varda travels france examining the lifestyle, from the ancient custom of gleaning the fields after harvest to modern 'freegans' and artists using salvaged junk. fascinating characters, not least the filmmaker herself, who sees her art as gleaning images from everyday life
Eric B

Super Reviewer

October 23, 2009
This lovely, whimsical documentary is director Agnes Varda's tribute to the quaint practice of "gleaning" -- sifting through others' harvested farmland for leftover fruits and vegetables. This gentle foraging is not stigmatized like digging through trash (in fact, it's often presented as a commendable effort to cut ecological waste) and almost all of the interviewed gleaners are surprisingly clean and articulate. Many farmers even accept the gleaners, and merely set up some light rules for their trespassing.

"The Gleaners and I" is somewhat unfocused, especially considering it's only 82 minutes, and has quirky personal insertions that could be labeled self-indulgent. Varda not only narrates but intermittently appears onscreen, observing her body's aging, phantom-pinching trucks that she passes on the highway (shades of the Kids in the Hall's "I'm crushing your head" bit) and showing trivial lens-cap footage shot by accident. But such tangents are central to the film's homespun charm. She also becomes seduced by the gleaning concept herself, and gradually accumulates some chairs, figs, heart-shaped potatoes and a broken clock. "A clock without hands is my kind of thing," she smiles. "You don't see time passing."

Eventually, she introduces city settings and broadens her scope. We see people who search for appliances, turn trash into artwork and live off found food. One of them has a Masters degree. Some legal aspects are explored, and there's also discussion of gleaning as depicted in paintings. Varda seems to just spontaneously follow the story wherever it leads her. It's a warm introduction to a peculiar, less-known corner of French culture.
John B

Super Reviewer

January 9, 2012
Agnes Varda brings forward a very interesting documentary on the tradition of gleaning or picking up discarded food that wasn't brought by farmers to food distributors. It is a practice that is practical in terms of supplementing the food sources for the working poor and a good lesson in how to avoid waste.

Super Reviewer

May 25, 2008
A documentary from Agnes Varda about the world of hardcore recycling. Gleaners traditionally are people who go through fields after harvest and pickup the extra crops that the plows miss, here that definition is expanded to include people who rummage through trash and hunt for abandoned appliances for things that can be salvaged. The gleaners are frequently very interesting, it?s the ?I? part I could have done without. Varda frequently butts in on what?s going on in order to make some weird hippie-ish observation, like one really stupid part where she includes footage she accidentally shot of her lens cap bobbing around and how she finds that to be just profound. Still the, world she?s documenting in 80% of the movie is fairly interesting and filled with colorful people and Varda doesn?t push a larger political point to far, a nice enough 82 minute watch despite some unneeded interruptions.
Patrick D

Super Reviewer

February 27, 2008
This film is incredibly fasinating. It's amazing to find out about a culture of refuse pickers in France, it really makes you think about what you throw away. The only problem with the film is that the film maker is very self indulgent, and it really tends to grind the film to a halt when she does this. Although, with the knowledge that Agnes Varda was a strong presence in the French Nouvelle Vague movement, I guess one can't be surprised can they?
But when all is said and done it's a lovely little film that presents all sorts of gleaning, obvious and not.
August 19, 2009
I understand the "and I" part, coupled with the theme of gleaners not letting anything go to waste, but was it REALLY necessary to watch her pretend to catch semi-trucks with her hand, or to watch her lens cap dance?
August 14, 2009
What a wonderful thing. I don't get anything out of the subject of crop gleaning (I grew up on a ranch, so all the wonder at scraps left over from the harvest seems dumb to me), but none of that matters. It's an enchanting travelogue and character study. The way Varda inserts herself into the film would be terrible by any other filmmaker, but it's Varda, one of the greatest personalities in cinema, and so it works. The cross-eyed dude who eats what he finds as soon as he picks it up and then teaches African immigrants French at night is one of the great hero characters of cinema- he's the Jean Gabin of French documentary.
August 21, 2007
A heartfelt, sweet and stylized documentary that runs a little too long for its own good but there are bits and pieces that are inspired throughout but comes off a bit mundane. Its sweet to see Agnes Varda get so deep into her work and for a woman of her age really embrace her handheld camera.
March 31, 2014
This was an absolutely insightful documentary on a subject I knew pretty much nothing about. It combines articulate documentary storytelling, thoughts on economics and the way we treat one another, not to mention personal connections with director Agnes Varda's own life and experiences. This is the sort of documentary I hope to one day make. Seek it out, you will definitely get something out of it!
September 11, 2013
Liked this way more than I was expecting to (the idea of a famous New Wave director indulging in the struggles of poverty doesn't really sit well with me). Funny and layered and unpretentious in ways most expose documentaries daren't be. I'm gonna check out more Varda.
November 23, 2012
Wild and wacky. Recommended by Ian Bain, thanks Ian. This is kind of a documentary and also an auteur art film. Agnes Varda is wonderful. The fabric of image and story and social history is expertly woven. A good 'un.
May 22, 2012
Apparently I'm enough of an egotist not to be bothered by the supposed egoism of others‚"either that, or it isn't here. I thoroughly enjoyed Varda's wonderfully playful, artistic, impressionistic, and deeply humane approach to this subject matter‚"including the ‚self-portrait‚? aspects wherein she moreognizes that all art has an element of self-portrait to it, and attempts to ‚glean‚? the gleaner Agnes, along with the more traditional gleaners she documents. For the gleaner in all of us, there are innumerable little unexpected treats dropped for us to pick up in this ‚documentary.‚? First off, as viewers we need to drop our preconceived notions of what a ‚documentary‚? is, and like gleaners and scavengers ourselves, humbly accept the leftovers and cast-offs that cross our path. If you have a resourceful scavenging spirit, this film will definitely speak to you‚"as it clearly spoke to so many who have seen it, evidenced in the hour-long follow-up piece which not only revisits some of the subjects of the original film, but displays the outpouring of cards, letters, gifts, and gratitude of viewers who were deeply touched by the film. Gleaners and I deals with some ‚heavy issues‚? like poverty, homelessness, alcoholism‚"but it is neither a ‚heavy‚? film, nor is it frivolous and disrespectful towards it's subjects, which range from street people, gypsies and caravaners, traditional rural gleaners, and urban dumpster divers, to ‚found-object‚? artists, and a myriad of other scavengers from most social strata. What stood out most to me was how intimate, natural, and relaxed was the glimpse I was given of all the people in this film. Don't expect a 60 Minutes approach‚"thank goodness! This is a work of art‚"which just so happens to have an amazing amount to say, or rather show, about the world around us. Bon App√ (C)tit!
P D.
June 11, 2011
At the beginning of the film, Agnes Varda informs the audience of a brief history of gleaning, showing classic paintings of women stooping over in search of grain in golden windswept fields. I think she believes her role is of a modern-day artist, capturing the images of gleaners today, but oh have times changed. The dumpsters, trash and potato piles are not as picturesque as classic paintings she returns to throughout the film, but the story that she uncovers along the way is an interesting work of art. The gleaners of modern-day France are the desperate and impoverished. There are several annoying scenes that should have been cut; including the grabbing the tractor trailers on the highway and the jazzy lenscap scenes. The self-reflection on old-age did not seem to fit into the scope of the film, she is making a relevant documentary at age 72, what's to worry about? This is really a two part documentary, including the 60 minute The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later which I found more substantial than part 1. It was interesting to see the audience reaction to the film by reviewing letters, gifts and personal visits.
October 25, 2010
This is what we all should be doing and all this waste will stop.
July 1, 2004
JAY BULWORTH [Warren Beatty]:
"You know, there's a lesson here, which is never try to make life or death decisions when you're feeling suicidal."
[b](BULWORTH, Warren Beatty, 1998)[/b]
di aria
June 30, 2004
before i go to bed, just one more thing, agnes varda's "the gleaners and i" is a living breathing docu or docudrama or whatever, it's about the gleaners and also the director which i think in this film or docu or docudrama or (for f**ks sake!) whatever it is, is sensing her not-so-long death. it is dying, yet in other part, it's so alive cause there's somekind of hope growing, and it's also lovely because it's old and elegant yet was made out of leftovers.......a bit tiring here and there but always balanced with some interesting facts...quite nice, i think i'm gonna change my diet after this...
May 6, 2004
what a dumb movie. i swear to god the director was on crack wen she made this. there is this one part where she left the camera on during an interview in a orchard or vineyard. the camera was facing the ground and the lens cap was hanging off of it in the shot. and she called it the lens cap dance. i wanted to beat sal for showing this to us.
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