The film opens with the image of an encyclopedia set. An illustrated ‘Larousse’; something that preexisted the Internet, paved the way for Google and was totally extinguished by smart phones. Agnès Varda’s voice start narrating the meaning of the word ‘to glean’, as we look at the pages of the encyclopedia. The proper image chosen for the word is a painting by Jean-François Millet, The Gleaners.
Next, we see a shot of the entrance of Musée d’Orsay; the painting belongs to its permanent collection. Flocks of visitors gather around it, some want to have their picture taken.
Finally we see the painting by itself.
The Gleaners and I is a documentary about gleaning and how mass production of food has killed this tradition while creating more food waste than ever. Just like looking up the meaning of a word in an encyclopedia or visiting a museum to actually see an original painting, it has become a thing of the past.