The Gleaners and I is Agnès Varda’s study about the act (and sometimes art) of gleaning — “collecting after harvest,” as well as a timely memento mori.She illustrates, in a very classroom lecture-y way, the different denotations and connotations of what and where one gleans. The flipbook of possibilities range from stalks of corn, tomatoes, potatoes, grapes and figs (considered a heterodox to those who believe the ability to glean is only from something that grows by roots), expired foods, trash, and so on. Varda documents examples from farms, countrysides, landfills, public dumpsters, vineyards, and food markets. She interviews traditional gleaners, modern gleaners, gypsies, judges, artists, homeless, those rebellious and health-conscious. Along for the field trip — as the educational aspect of Varda’s exposé is most prevalent to — is her new toy, the digital videocamera. She breaks from her studiousness, here and there, to play with it, to experiment with the bells and whistles, indulge in harmless narcissism, pretend to swallow big-rigs she passes on the road with her hands, and even to point out how she forgot to turn her camera off as the lens-cap dances to dubbed music. The image is venial and appropriate when one takes the time to consider the homespun nature of her project or report. However rudimentary her thesis on the subject is, Varda is able to explore her interest, pass it on to the viewer and still give them something to learn about. That accomplishment affords it (and her) a passing grade.
With Bodan Litnanski and François Wertheimer.[Worth-seeing.]