Sunday, 9 May 2010

Cleo 5 a 7 (1962)

Synopsis: French pop princess kills two hours whilst waiting for medical test results. She wanders around Paris, bumping into friends, strangers, kittens and frogs.

I saw this on the big screen as part of a re-issue of Queen of the Nouvelle Vague Agnes Varda's films. I was intrigued by the premise and the idea of the film running in (almost) real time and following someone through the streets of Paris. Visually, this film is lovely - swooshing, sympathetic, humorous and intimate camera work gives us a sense of a young, spoilt woman but still a real woman, with anxieties and emotions that we can all can relate to.

The picture above is taken from a wonderful scene when both Cleo and her assistant are swinging/rocking in their seats. The camera's POV (one moment looking at Cleo straight on, then swapping to focus on the assistant from behind Cleo) is so delightful, so playful. I got the feeling the whole film was a real celebration of life and unstoppable energy.

We follow Cleo having her Tarot cards read, buying a hat, taking taxis, playing with kittens in her bright loft apartment, recieving her older lover, rehearsing with her band, wandering along boulevards to see a frog swallower (make sure you're not eating when watching this scene), driving round with a friend and finally getting chatted up in a park by an off duty soldier. The soldier becomes Cleo's companion for the final act of the film, accompanying her to find out her fate.

What I really loved about this film was how light and airy it is even though the underlying narrative (Cleo is waiting to hear if she has cancer) is dark as anything.

There's also a lovely little film within a film featuring Jean-Luc Godard as a silent film character contemplating life and death of his girlfriend.

The ending is great - Cleo and the soldier end up a l'hopital to get the test results. As they sit on a bench in the grounds, Cleo's doctor drives past in his sports car and delivers her positive result in the same flippant manner as she lives her life. Then the film just ends. FIN. A bit like life, non?

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