After entering the Musee d'Orsay, in the second room on your left you'll find hanging a work by the realist painter Jean François Millet. Aptly named The Gleaners , the painting depicts the practice of "gleaning" — collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested — which was often accepted in ancient cultures, albeit as an act of charity.
Millet painted Des glaneuses  in 1857, a mere decade after the French Revolution. His painting was a statement on rural poverty, not on religious charity, and initial reactions were negative. The bourgeoisie felt the painting glorified the proletariat, and the painting sold for an embarrassingly low price. To this day, society still continues to look down upon people who scavenge for their food.
Filmmaker Agnès Varda , however, uses Millet's work as the jumping off point for her journey, a documentary made in 2000 that explores both the contemporary practices and the history of gleaning: Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I) . The film takes a romantic look at the reasons people glean, but also the risks and the legal implications.
If you're the type who sat alone in a dark room after watching Pixar's Wall-E , then I highly recommend this film. The Gleaners and I is a wonderful movie for anyone who currently feels disdain for modern wastefulness and excessive consumerism. It's not exactly a how-to guide on the art of scavenging, but Varda does offer an excellent overview for anyone exploring the "freegan" lifestyle. Through interviews with a cast of characters — the descendents of Millet's gleaners, urban scavengers, the homeless, and eccentrics — Varda provides an in-depth look at resourcefulness and scavenging in modern times.
In most parts of Europe, laws dating back to the Middle Ages still protect gleaning. Revolving around legalities, the film forces the viewer to confront their beliefs about property and its subsequent waste. A deeply personal documentary, Varda intertwines herself with her subjects. Viewing herself as a gleaner of images and movement, she collects the forgotten and ignored moments to create this poignant film.
Image ~ Painting: Jean-François Millet, Des glaneuses (1857) Musée d'Orsay
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