Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cléo from 5 to 7

Cléo de 5 à 7; Drama, France, 1961; D: Agnes Varda, S: Corinne Marchand, Antoine Bourseiller, Dominique Davray, Dorothee Blank, Michel Legrand

Cléo, a young singer living in Paris, visits a fortune teller hoping to find out something about her future. Namely, it's 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and she is expecting her biopsy results from her doctor in two hours, fearing she may or may not have cancer. When the fortune teller predicts her death, Cléo leaves the building. In order to kill time until her results, she drinks a coffee with her maid Angele. Back at home, she is visited by her lover and then by her friends composers Bob and Plumitif, who try to cheer her up. As she starts singing a depressive song, she decides to quit and visit her friend Dorothee, who poses nude for sculptors. Although they talk about normal issues, Cléo is still nervous and thinking about her results. Finally, a taxi driver drops her of at the park, where she meets a soldier, Antoine. He accompanies her to the hospital. There the doctor announces that she indeed has cancer and that she should report to him for radiotherapy.

"Cléo from 5 to 7" is a film that demands endless patience, but it still unravels, surprisingly, much more intriguing and entertaining than one would expect. As if following Hitchcock's statement about how "There is no suspense in the shot, just in the anticipation of it", this whole film is based on casual, everyday anecdotes of the main heroine Cléo, that are all emotionally charged because they are pointing out and anticipating her biopsy result at the end, that will show if she has cancer or not. To make things even more unusual, in the finest manner of the "French New Wave", director Agnes Warda shaped this drama almost as a documentary by filming it almost in real time, following Cléo from 5 to 7 pm, for 2 hours, which is also almost the same running time of the film. Scene after scene, the film is shot almost in one gigantic sequence, following the nervous Cléo as she is walking through town trying to kill time - by shopping, drinking coffee, observing the people on the street, singing or talking with her friends - while the chapters are constantly showing up here and there on the screen, reminding the viewer how much time she has left, presenting "Chapter 1 - Cléo from 5:05 to 5:08", "Chapter 2 - Cléo from 5:08 to 5:013", "Chapter 3 - Cléo from 5:013 to 5:017" etc.

By coping with existentialism, the meaning of life and the fear of loss, Warda managed to create a quality made achievement filled with realism, finding beauty in the chaos of life and presenting it in quiet, understated manner, but at some scenes the film seems to drag and look repetitive. Surprisingly, the opening shots of the cards of the fortune teller are shot in color while the rest of the film is entirely in black and white, and here and there Warda likes to casually announce a few observations about human relationships, most noticeable in the scene in which Antoine is saying to Cléo how "woman don't love. They just want to be loved". "Cléo from 5 to 7" is not your average run-of-the-mill drama about sickness, but about the anticipation of the events that will change the life towards a worse state, making the protagonists realize that they should learn how to enjoy life and make the best of it - and the director of the film the best out of that theme.


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