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Agnès Varda.

Agnès Varda’s Faces Places Among Art World Films Up for Oscars

Nominations for the Ninetieth Academy Awards were announced on Tuesday, January 23. Among the contenders for the twenty-four award categories are several art and art-world-related films, including Faces Places (2017), a collaboration between visual artist JR and Agnès Varda, the eighty-nine-year-old director and “grandmother” of the French New Wave. The film, nominated for best documentary, follows Varda as she undergoes an ophthalmological exam. It also includes a restaging of a famous scene in Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders (1964). The movie is a consideration of two visions: Varda’s literal deteriorating eyesight and the cinematic vision she is celebrated for. Varda spoke about her life and work with artforum.com last year. “It is a real documentary,” Varda said about Faces Places. “But, it also documents our friendship, since [JR] is fifty-five years younger than me, and the story is about how we got along.”

Loving Vincent (2017), marketed as “the world’s first fully painted feature film,” was nominated for best animated feature, marking the eighth consecutive year that a film project launched on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has secured an Oscar nomination. Written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, the film revolves around Vincent van Gogh’s enigmatic death in 1890. Each of the film’s sixty-five thousand frames is an oil painting on canvas made in van Gogh’s bold style. Loving Vincent has grossed more than $28 million worldwide.

Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s The Square (2017), a satire of the art world, was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign-language film. It follows a curator of a prestigious fictional museum as he attempts to avert sundry crises surrounding the film’s titular installation: a four-by-four-foot square etched outside the museum that promises a “sanctuary of trust and caring” for whoever enters its parameters. “We have to ask ourselves what are we missing out on,” Östlund said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “What do we need to tell? We have to do this without looking at the economical aspect. We have to step back and think: What is the most important thing with art and with expressing ourselves?”

Dennis Lim reviewed The Square for artforum.com in June, shortly after it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. “Not least among its pleasures, Östlund’s wry dismantling of ego and privilege among the cultural class held up a mirror to the petty self-regard and herd mentality on routine display at the festival, which can itself resemble an elaborate behavioral experiment,” Lim wrote.

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