Cléo From 5 To 7 (Cléo De 5 à 7)

One of the great walking-and-talking movies, and one of the great Left Bank works of the early 60s, Agnès Varda’s Cléo From 5 To 7 follows a young singer around Paris as she waits to her news from her doctor regarding a possible diagnosis of cancer. It’s not quite in ‘real time’, but the journey she makes around the city is recreated by someone on a moped in the DVD extras, and it’s intriguing to see how much has changed in the interim (Varda’s film came out in 1962). Our sympathies are, of course, with Cléo (Corinne Marchand) as she waits to hear and contemplates her mortality, though the film is also about her self-obsession, or perhaps the general level of self-obsession the writer-director saw in people her age in 1960s Paris; therefore we see her peering through glass a lot and admiring her own image in various mirrors. This is a strong feminist work and we see plenty from Cléo’s point-of-view, such as the scene in which a nude female model is being painted (and objectified) by mostly male art students, or the way in which she herself is leered at by strangers on the street (possibly real people going about their daily business, as opposed to actors playing characters). (****½)