Cleo de 5 a 7 (1961)

Agnes Varda's contribution to the French New Wave is one of my favorites. It is an example of the magic of character, film, and zeitgeist, in that it is very basic in its structure and story, but is not limited in any way. The film is basically Cleo, from 5pm to 7pm, wandering Paris, talking to people, friends, strangers, colleagues, and herself. She is a successful Parisian chanteuse who is anxious about the impending results of a biopsy. Cleo fears the worst, and sets out to the streets of Paris on her own to process the dread, the grief, and the beauty of the here-and-now.

What I love about the film is, like I said, the simplicity. There is something so appealing to me about someone just wandering the streets of Paris. It is such a beautiful, elegant, unusual, and magical city that is best seen by just walking. The handful of times I have been fortunate to explore Paris, I always find myself getting off a random bus or metro stop and walking. Jean-Luc Godard once said "
All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl," and here instead of a gun, you have a telephone call, a meeting with a doctor, some bad news. Cleo takes in the world through slightly jaded eyes, she's forlorn and obsessed with omens. She gives meaning to everything in her life that could be a symbol, a metaphor, or a sign from the heavens. She is obsessed with both life and death, and the anxiety of sitting on the fence between the two is driving her crazy. Nobody she knows seems to understand her or are able to comfort her, and she only eventually finds solace with a soldier she meets while wandering through a park. He is full of life despite having seen the horrors of war and his own impending departure back to active duty, he still manages to inspire Cleo to take life as it comes and appreciate the little things.

This is one of my favorite films, and certainly one of the most interesting and accessible films to come out of the New Wave. It shows the creativity, the simplicity, and the excitement of possibility in cinema during the early sixties in France. It is shot in glorious black and white. I own this, if you know me I can lend it to you!

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