The Gleaners & I

by Joel Bocko

#59 in Best of the 21st Century?, a series counting down the most acclaimed films of the previous decade.
"Again one hand filming the other hand, and more trucks. I'd like to capture them. To retain things passing? No, just to play.
In Agnes Varda's documentary The Gleaners & I (a more literal translation from the French would be "The Gleaners & The Gleaner", or even "Gleaneress") play, investigation, and contemplation are all intricately yet loosely wound together - each element distinct yet forming an upretentiously ambitious whole, much like the found-object artpieces Varda highlights throughout. Her subject, as you might have gathered (no pun intended), is gleaning: in all its forms. We are introduced to the classical gleaners, the peasant women who would follow the harvest by crouching and stooping through the fields, rummaging for leftovers once the more illustrious agricultural bounty was carried off. We see such gleaners in famous French paintings, and meet one or two who reminisce only - it seems that this more traditional form of gleaning has fallen by the wayside: mechanized reaping has become too precise and so few crops are left behind these days. This we learn in the first five minutes of the 90-minute film; what follows is an eager, inquisitive investigation of gleaning in all its latter-day manifestations...

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