The Gleaners and I (2001)
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Critic Reviews for The Gleaners and I
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[A] lyrically ramshackle essay about people, including Varda herself, who don't fit into society's cubbyholes.
The Gleaners and I is a film well worth finding.
Audience Reviews for The Gleaners and I
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.
French rambling shaggy-dog documentary about a) people who collect what others have left or dumped, and b) Agnes Varda, the filmmaker. Best watched if, as I was, you're equally happy spending time with both.
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.
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