At one point in this radiant, generous documentary about people—including herself—who salvage things that others have thrown away or rejected, director Agnès Varda trains the camera on the crinkled skin of her own hand. “My hands keep telling me that the end is near,” she says plainly in voiceover, though she doesn’t linger on the moment; instead, she jumps back into the business of filming people picking up bits of plastic tubing to incorporate into their artwork, or celebrating the shape of this or that bumpy root vegetable, deemed too ugly to sell but certainly good enough to eat. Varda, one of the central figures of the French New Wave, was in her early seventies when she made The Gleaners & I, and even though she was clear-eyed about the future, she had much more filmmaking in her. Maybe that right there is evidence of this movie’s rejuvenating powers. It’s a ballad about making the most of every little thing, and every image. It’s about delighting in everything and letting nothing go to waste, and about recognizing the blessing of finding a heart-shaped potato amid a pile of ordinary ones.
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