Pick Up and Use
An objective description of The Gleaners and I might read: a French documentary about the resourceful people who pick up and make use of crop leftovers and/or garbage in general, literally depicting how one man's trash is another man's treasure. However, this would do little to convey the spirit of the piece, decidedly delivered by the woman some have called the grandmother of the French New Wave: Agnès Varda.
It is completely disarming to watch Varda equip herself with a new handheld digital camera and embrace the freedom of being able to wander around and shoot anything she feels like shooting. When she's not interviewing people for her chosen subject, she's fascinated with her aging hand, or she shoots the adornments of her home; she even playfully films semi-trailer trucks and enacts a kids' game of pretending to "catch" them with her hand.
Who knew great directors could be so cute? Varda ensures her activities fit in with the given theme at hand. As other people glean from rejected fruits and vegatables at a harvest, or assorted knicknacks to make art, or even thrown-out expired food simply to be able to eat within one's means, she gleans images, showing us how even accidental footage of her camera's own dangling lens cap can be edited to create amusement. The Gleaners and I becomes a tribute to all the people who think outside the box, while observing with a humane eye those who understand that "waste" is only a relative term and value is where you find it.
(Released by Zeitgeist Films; not rated by MPAA.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.