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The Gleaners and I (2000)

Director: Agnes Varda, Agnes Varda
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Genre: Documentary, Foreign, France
Running Time: 142 min.
Languages: French
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

Legendary filmmaker Agnes Varda takes digital camcorder in hand and roams about the French countryside in search of "gleaners." An age-old practice, as depicted in Millet's famous painting, performed traditionally by peasant women, gleaners scavenged the remains of a crop after the harvest. Varda finds their modern-day equivalent collecting rejected potatoes outside of Lyon, fallen apples in Provence, and refuse in the markets of Paris. Along the way, she talks to a man sporting yellow rubber boots who has lived on trash for ten years, a gourmet chef who gleans for his restaurant, a homeless doctorate in biology who teaches literacy courses to immigrants for free, a couple of artists who use trash in their work, and the grandson of early cinema innovator Étienne-Jules Marey. Along the way, Varda discusses heart-shaped potatoes, big trucks on the highway, the waste of consumerism, and the ravages of time. This film was screened at the 2000 Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals. ~ Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

Special Features:

  • Exclusive follow-up film by Agnes Varda "The Gleaners and I Two Years Later"
  • Production notes by Varda
  • Varda filmography

You might also enjoy:

Cleo de 5 a 7
Varda's seminal 1962 New Wave classic

Varda's docudrama also looks at someone at the fringe of an alienating society

Dark Days
Excellent, humane documentary on nomadic homeless people who spend most of their time in subway tunnels

GreenCine Member Reviews

There will be those who will see only junk, and those who will see "a cluster of possibilities" by ZenBones December 13, 2004 - 2:37 AM PST
4 out of 6 members found this review helpful
To glean is to see something beautiful or useful in something that is conventionally useless, pointless or ugly, and to make that thing even more beautiful or useful. One can consume the stuff they glean, or they could recycle it into an art form, creating a whole new purpose for the object(s). Gleaning also applies to our basic ability for survival. In the worst times of our lives, whether it's the death of a friend or facing poverty or illness, there is a way of seeing things positively that helps us survive. Thus, faith and hope are gleaned in the face of disparity. Scientists glean facts and turn them into theory. We glean possibilities every time we use our imaginations. We glean memories when we write (James Joyce was probably the world's greatest literary gleaner). And psychiatrists pay attention to what others don't notice by gleaning beneath the stubborn surface of our egos. This film blew me away in how it depicted how much waste our society makes, and the myriad of ways in which those who glean what we discard benefit society. But the film is even more than a fascinating documentary and social statement. As one can see from the concepts listed above, it's also a celebration of seeing our world and ourselves as a "cluster of possibilities." There are many theories that we are all in essence stardust developed from fragments of 'the big bang' and quintessentially, this film is about "gleaners of stardust." It pertains to those who metaphorically glean the hidden mysteries and possibilities of our world (i.e. the gleaners of dreams and ideas). Come to think of it, film lovers and the best filmmakers are in fact, gleaners by that very definition. Agnes Varda has proven that she is one of the greatest gleaners of all time.

Delivers by squad November 2, 2004 - 8:09 PM PST
3 out of 6 members found this review helpful
Very thorough look at gleaning in France. The volunteer teacher alone is worth watching. The film maker does a few silly things with her Handi-cam, but reminded me of others I know who at 80+ years do pretty much what they please, which is refreshing in a way, and foolish. But she is an experienced film maker, and most of the movie must have been done with a crew and regular equipment. If the topic interests you, go for it.

You can glean a lot here by EFox January 13, 2004 - 9:17 PM PST
6 out of 8 members found this review helpful
A previous reviewer doesn't care for anything about this film. But if you are someone who enjoys elegant photography, are interested in the different ways in which the poor and disenfranchised survive, or if you are an artist who uses found materials or are interested in people who do; if you are intrigued by the relationship between subject and director in documentary, or if you are fascinated by voluntary "drop-out" life-styles, there will be a lot here to hold your attention. Give it a try; take it slow.

This DVD also contains an hour-long follow-up documentary by the filmaker in which the real main character, I think, is a potato--it's worth watching to the end to see how it transmogrifies. (Non-visual types only interested in plot or spoon-fed themes need not bother).

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