Varda, who's been making films for the last four-and-a-half decades, takes the digital video revolution in full stride with The Gleaners and I, a fascinating documentary-cum-memoir that's playing at the Film Center this weekend. Gleaning, historically, is the activity undertaken by those who scavenge in fields after the harvest, picking through the edible detritus for their sustenance.
As she meanders through the French countryside with her digital camera in hand, Varda examines the legal and moral implications of gleaning and talks to some folks who still practice it today. This leads to an indictment of modern material culture and the appalling wastefulness of it, which justifies the gleaning of stuff that would otherwise be left to rot.
She also, as the title indicates, includes herself among them, as a borrower of ideas and images, the implication being that any artist steals from the world around her, just as the stooping women in Jean-François Millet's 1867 painting, "The Gleaners," appropriate food from the fields. Some of the film's most fascinating moments come as Varda drives along, musing on things like her liver-spotted hand as it wanders into frame. Filmmaking doesn't get much more idiosyncratic or intimate than this.
In other words: Go back to school, student!