Mur Murs

Mur Murs ★★★★½

Los Angeles by way of its minority painters - talented artists young and old - Mexican Americans, black people, latinoamericanos. LA is a riot of colour, its ugliest streets suddenly beautiful, its beautiful people temporarily immortalised as giants five stories tall. Varda's confident narration softly brings their stories together, while in the background a hushed male voice gives names to every painter whose work is shown. My favourite moments in this documentary include the short sequence of children running in front of a few massive paintings, including a serene field scene; the woman who says "I'm gonna sing a song for you" and proceeds to do so, and her voice is rich and beautiful; how every interview is so personal, and all the little speech quirks of Varda's subjects are allowed to shine through; how the art sometimes take a background to tragedy, as one artist describes finding his then-sixteen year old brother lying in a pool of blood in an alleyway; the cops snorting cocaine in a park; the sense of community in art; the man who awkwardly says "merci beaucoup" before leaving after his short interview about pigs; the scene depicted on the poster, a line of people moving ever so slowly in front of a deep blue painting of two massive whales, while discordant music plays over top, and citizens on bicycles and roller-skates pass by in front. The scene is so strange it's almost scary, as if it's the whales themselves providing the backing track for the dancers. The story ends with the realisation, so obvious but sad all the same, that no art in the city is really made to last forever, that gentrification and desecration and weathering ensure that most murals will be on their way out sooner or later, and that the artists understand this; the importance of art is getting it out there, to impart knowledge or spread a message or tell a story to whoever will listen for as long as it is there.

I am new to Agnès Varda's work, but I'm finding, after seeing two of her documentaries through MUBI, that she may be one of my favourite documentarians of all time.