‘Cleo from 5 to 7’: A Film for Paris in July

Summertime… and the viewing is nostalgic. On a lazy, hazy summer afternoon, what better way to spend your time than to catch up on classic films that you’d missed through the years, or, rewatch them. Sure, a glass of pink lemonade and some chocolate-dipped madeleines would add to the enjoyment.

Here’s a wonderful film by the venerable Belgium born French director Agnès Varda, who turned 90 on May 30 this year. Just exactly what she was doing a few weeks before her 90th birthday?

On May 12, Varda joined Cate Blanchett in leading 82 female industry figures to walk up the stairs on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, a silent protest symbolizing the challenges women face in climbing the industry ladder. Blanchett gave a speech in English, Varda in French.

Cleo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7) is a 1962 film by Varda, a Cannes Palme d’Or nominee the next year. The story takes place on one single day in the life of a popular recording singer Cleo (as in Cleopatra) who loves everything beautiful looking. But early in the day she receives all sorts of bad omens about her health. Her zest for life fizzles through the day as she would be calling her doctor to find out the result of the medical test she’d taken a couple days ago.

Cleo from 5 to 7.jpg

We follow Cleo on the longest day in 1962, yes, that’s the first day of summer, which could have brought her vitality and joy. How does the fear of illness and mortality affect the beauty-seeking and fun-loving Cleo? It totally changes her outlook. Instead of being cooped up in her apartment with musicians rehearsing her songs, she steps out into the streets of Paris to escape the gloomy sense of despair.

Don’t worry, this is not Sarte or Camus. Cleo is just a gal seeking to be loved, and for the first time in her life, fearing for her own mortality. Varda takes us along the streets of 1962 Paris, and offers us naturalistic scenes of cafes and roadside buskers, and leads us into an art studio as Cleo looks for her friend who works as a model for sculptors.

Finally, she’s alone in a park, the serene, meditative milieu is the ideal setting for her to meet Antoine. The encounter is the magic she needs. The rest you ought to see it for yourself. Varda’s pace is leisurely, her viewpoint insightful, and the ending is satisfying. Maybe by now, Cleo learns the difference between beautiful-looking and beauty.

The original music is soothing and cooling for a summer day, composed by Michel Legrand (who is the piano player in the movie). Legrand is a three times Oscar winning French film composer. Which three times? Yentl (1983), Summer of ’42 (1971), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

As I said, summer is the best time for nostalgic viewing.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ Ripples

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Paris in July is hosted by Tamara of Thyme for Tea, an annual summer blogging event.

Paris in July 18

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Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

8 thoughts on “‘Cleo from 5 to 7’: A Film for Paris in July”

  1. That was a very effective review! I’ve just put “Cleo” at the top of my Netflix queue, which I’m sorry is a “very long wait.” But as I watch about three movies a year, it might not make too much difference 😉

    Thank you, Arti!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is a really good classic suggestion. I won’t say it’s been on my list since 1962, but from time to time I have been meaning to explore Varda’s films and have never quite made it. Good thought.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Like

    1. Mae,

      I’m still discovering Varda. Not many of her films are available for me to stream or borrow from the local library. Hope you’ll have a chance to see “Cléo” soon. Thanks for stopping by the Pond. 🙂

      Like

    1. I downloaded this from Kanopy, free from my local library. BTW, Kanopy is a great streaming service, free for educational institutions and libraries. It’s the classic streaming platform in contrast to Netflix which streams mostly popular movies.

      Like

  3. Wow, a film set in 1962 Paris and you have given it such a great review. More so in France than anywhere else I know, they value and respect the work of the director. You’ve made a great case for watching more from Varda. Thanks for sharing this in Paris in July 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

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