Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Gleaners and I

(Les glaneurs et la glaneuse, French, 2000)

Maybe Agnes Varda is an acquired taste, or maybe this just wasn’t one of her best, or maybe I’m not an Agnes Varda type. It got hugely positive reviews, and I was with her for a while … but I couldn’t stay. Gleaners are people who go through the fields after the harvest and gather the fallen fruit and the trampled grain. She shows us modern-day gleaners, and it’s fascinating, given that literally tons of perfectly good potatoes are thrown away because they are—get this—too big. Shoppers these days want perfect produce, and that very much includes how it looks. Then she moves on to what we call dumpster divers in the US, people who glean the stuff tossed out behind supermarkets because of a blemish or two. And then it’s on to artistic gleaners, people who make art, some of it quite good, from found objects, trash. But along the way her fascination with her new digital video camera really gets in the way. She films passing trucks, then her own hands. I think I understood what she was doing, in a way. She was gleaning stuff from her own footage. But when she included a long sequence of when she left the camera on by mistake and showed nothing but the ground and her feet and the dangling lens cover … that was all the trash I could take. We turned it off.