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On the rare occasions when a documentary feature gets released in cinemas it’s usually because it’s a major achievement. Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I can easily be seen in this category. The title in French is actually The Gleaners and the Gleaner, Varda includes herself amongst those who scavenge for things of value or worth that have been discarded or neglected by others. She starts with Millet’s famous painting of three women gleaning wheat but discovers very soon that modern machinery has made the gleaning of cereal crops very much a thing of the past. But modern machinery actually discards potatoes that are either misshapen or too big or too small, tons of perfectly edible potatoes are dumped where some people find them. From potato farms to vineyards to city markets, Varda films the gleaners, using a digital camera that she finds gives her freedom to not only film them but to record her own aging – she was 72 when she made this film. It’s a meditation on the dignity of the ancient art of gleaning, on the imaginative use to which some gleaners of objects can put their finds and on waste and wasting. It’s a beautiful film, fitting in with Varda’s interest in society’s outsiders as with her fine 1986 film Vagabond.

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1 hour 22 min

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