Cléo de 5 à 7

Cléo de 5 à 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962)

This post is part of the Seven days of the French New Wave event going on Le Mot du Cinephiliaque from December 1st to 7th 2011.

Agnès Varda, being one of the most famous filmmaker of the Nouvelle Vague and one of the few women to direct films in this era, is still shooting in the 2000's. Her first feature, La pointe courte might be the first film of the French New Wave. But her most widely known picture is Cléo de 5 à 7. Cléo (Corinne Marchand) is a pop singer waiting for the results of her last visit at the doctor. She might be having a cancer. We follow her struggle through the two long hours she has to wait to know the results.

This fable about the 1960's and the bland persona that the modern world and those frivolous years has brought to our society is well portrayed here. Cléo's character is very narcissic and her devotion to her beauty and her career is infectious. She'll even put on a record of one of her songs in a restaurant to watch people if they'll listen to the song playing. Her name, short for Cleopatra, says a lot about her, how she thinks she is a queen, how everyone should listen to her and be at her services. Hardly happy and never satisfied by anything, her mood swings all the time. Well, the wait of the result sure is stressing in some way but we easily guess that it's one of her trait of  personality. The presence of Corinne Marchand is the focal point of the film and Varda's camera just has to swing and follow her around to deliver her beauty and undress the character in front of our eyes. Cléo is like an onion that you have to peel to discover the diamond within when she meets Antoine the first character she seems to really apreciate.
This is a true Nouvelle Vague classic and the style of Varda and her simple technique makes this one of the little gems of this era. Since, Cléo isn't as sympathetic has she'll become near the end of the film it is harder for the audience to fully immerge himself in the story of a whinny woman. However, the princess syndrome of stardom and instant popularity couldn't be more actual. Even if it isn't really scratched by the plot some elements makes us think about anyway. A great film to get into the French New Wave. Since it was my first Varda ever I'll have to catch up and see her earlier and later work to put this one in the perspective of her whole career.


  1. I watched this for the first time back in July and loved it immediately. I had the same reaction that you did. After seeing it, I wanted to watch more Varda. So far, I've only seen La Pointe Courte. I liked La Pointe Courte but not nearly as much as Cleo.

    The opening scene of Cleo, the color scene with the tarot cards right before the film shifts to black and white, is unforgettable.

  2. La pointe courte is considered by many as the first film of the french new wave. I must see it even if you say it is n't as great as Cleo. And indeed the opening is unforgettable and a little unsettling! Thanx for commenting John it's really appreciated!


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