Agnes Varda, the lone woman in the French New Wave boys' club, made her reputation with her second feature Cleo from 5 to 7, a 90-minute drama set in real time exploring the internal turmoil of a flighty young pop singer w... more »ho awaits the results of a medical examination for cancer. Leaving behind her elegant, almost antiseptic apartment for the bustle of the Parisian streets, she weaves through crowds and watches street performers while struggling with her fears and self-recriminations, confronting her shortcomings and finding hope in a chance meeting with a young soldier. Varda captures the vibrant social world and its easy rhythms in creamy black and white with smooth long takes, bringing an almost tactile quality to Cleo's personal odyssey, punctuated with chapter titles marking the time until her appointment at the hospital. Corinne Marchand's Cleo enters as a spoiled adolescent, but introspective internal monologues and brief encounters with strangers etch a portrait of a woman hiding her fears under a façade of flightiness, only discarding the mask when she firmly embraces life in the face of possible death. --Sean Axmaker« less
Poetry meets anti-studio system guerrilla New Wave
TUCO H. | Los Angeles, CA | 09/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Cleo from 5 to 7" was shot mostly on the streets of Paris where our beautiful heroine, a rather shallow singer and model, roams after she's taken a hypochondriac's test to see if she has cancer. Floating on the mood of doubt she has accumulated (which won't be allayed until the test results come in), she sees things with new eyes, becomes deeper and less superficial, and eventually meets up with a chance stranger who gently goads her into a new type of romance. Varda's film isn't exactly "eccentric," "difficult" or "intellectual" as some New Wave films are, but then it's nowhere near trite or simplistic either. Above all, it's just an amazingly beautiful and poetic film, and, of course, very romantic in a patented French way. Varda being a woman, it follows logically that the so-called 'women's angle' is well represented, yet for all that, if you didn't know Varda was female, you'd probably never guess it from watching her film. It's very close in tone to her husband Jacues Demy's "Lola," early Truffaut and Chabrol's 1960 masterpiece "Les Bonnes Femmes," which also deals with women's problems, and which hardly anyone has seen since it's criminally never been released on video."
Cinematic Tour de Force
M. Innocenti | Sherman Oaks, CA United States | 03/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even if French New Wave Cinema of the 1950's and 1960's is of no interest to you, don't be put off seeing this incredible film. If you do have an interest in films from this period and you haven't yet seen "Cleo" then make a promise to yourself to see this film now. Director Agnes Varda made a movie back in 1960-61 that rises above language, time, place and fashion to be a masterpiece in world cinema. In some respects this is a neglected masterpiece as it is seldom spoken in the same breath as films like "400 Blows", but that makes the pleasure of discovering it all the more sweet. Amongst the highlights - a gorgeous and clever score by Michel Legrand who makes a wonderful appearance as "Bob, the Pianist"; astonishing camerawork throughout - innumerable sequences that make you wonder "how did they do that?". Varda is such an assured filmmaker that she can turn what at first appear to be momentary lapses of energy and inspiration into ever more revealing and moving climaxes. One of the great movies. You won't regret spending a summer evening in Paris with Cleo."
READ THE SIGNS
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 09/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's not so very often that I see a movie two evenings in a row, but I simply had to do it with French director Agnès Varda's CLEO FROM 5 TO 7. Because, unlike in today first and only degree movies, there is so much in it. Not only in the dialogs, but also in the way Agnès Varda has patiently built her movie ; just try to watch CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 while concentrating on what is behind the main action, observe the clocks that are always present and remind us Cléo's fate, look at the stores punctuating Cléo's race through the Paris of 1961. You have to literally read this movie.Cléo, an addict of all kind of superstitions, will show you the way ; for her, everything and everybody knows that she is marked by illness. With her and Angèle, her guardian, you will learn how to read the signs that are surrounding you. The first scene of the movie, in a fortune-teller's apartment, is the only scene shot in colour and, in my opinion, a lesson of cinema. Music and songs take also an important place in Agnés Varda's CLEO FROM 5 TO 7. Michel Legrand, the future composer of THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG and LES DEMOISELLES OF ROCHEFORT, plays the role of Cléo's friend and composer and delivers a superb performance. Corinne Marchand has the beauty of a French depressed Marilyn Monroe and her encounter with a returning soldier is a moment of pure freshness.Excellent sound and images for this Criterion release but,alas, no extra-features except for english subtitles.A DVD for your library."
Cleo's afternoon worries; a genuine cinematic experience...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 04/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cleo (Corinne Marchand), a successful singer, fears the result of a biopsy as she is anxiously anticipating the results of her test. While waiting, Cleo has a fortuneteller read her cards, which predict death. This leads Cleo to expect that she will die from cancer. The film depicts Cleo's two hour long wait for the results of the biopsy as she is restlessly searching for a meaning. As she searches she discovers our own self-importance and insignificance in the world. Agnès Varda directs a superb vision of Cleo's wait and pursuit, which is in the true spirit of French New Wave. An example of the realism of French New Wave is the opening scene, shot in color that fades into black and white, which visually enhances the psychological undertones of the film's theme. Another example is the crude camera work that becomes apparent as the camera pans and moves with Cleo elevating the cinematic experience to a genuine event. It is this genuine feel that makes this cinematic experience amazing and it leaves the audience with something to ponder."
One of my favorites of all time.
Benjamin | ATLANTA, Gabon | 12/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's odd, I know, to call a film charming when its focus is about a woman's two hours of waiting before finding out if she has cancer. But "Cleo" isn't a sad story about cancer, really. It's a charming story about how to live your life somewhere between the superficial and profound when something alarming happens.Cleo's a pop singer. She sings light ditties that get French radio play. She spends her time shopping for hats, hanging out in cafes, carrying on meaningless-if-romantic affairs with songwriters. She's beautiful. She's fashionable. On the surface, she looks like she's having a good time. And she usually is.This movie's about what she did in the two hours before receiving her prognosis from her doctor. Should she just go on and live life as if nothing's come along to trouble her? If she chooses to, how does she go about confronting her own mortality?Corinne Marchand, as Cleo, chooses both paths for her. As she wanders the streets of Paris, she plays Cleo as though she's unable to decide whether to be happy-go-lucky. Thus, the lush, beautiful film by Agnes Varda is both light and resonant, fun and meaningful.It's like an "Amelie" that will make you cry as well as laugh.Done in a style predating the French New Wave, it manages to be about how to go shopping when you may be about to die. And the Criterion release is just great."