207 of 1001 Movies: Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962)

Agnes Varda carries on the French trend in the 60’s with an obscure movie that looks at life in an almost existential way from the perspective of Cleo. While intriguing in some parts, and just slow in others plays out it reminds me too much of some other French movies from that decade to be really one I would choose as a go to again to watch. It definitely was reminiscent of Breathless, and even Belle De Jour makes me reflect a bit in comparison to this. Unlike Breathless though, it’s a little easier to make a connection to Cleo as we get more inside her head and worries at what she believes is her impending doom.

Summary: We meet Cleo at 5 in the afternoon as she awaits test results from her doctor that she believes will be cancer, mostly from the reading of tarot cards that begin the movie. After leaving there we see her wondering the streets in France, chatting with a woman who is her caretaker, and meeting a man that she seems to be falling for even though he is soon to be deployed to Algeria. In those 2 hours we will find out where Cleo’s life might be heading and if she her results will really lead to a result of cancer.

Acting: For a movie like this the acting does have to be well done. It is very character driven, and it is dependent on feeling attached to Cleo. Corinne Marchand portrays Cleo, and does a good job. It’s easy to feel empathetic toward her, because despite her singing career that has made her famous she seems like just a normal person, and her situation with some impending bad news puts her on this field showing anyone, anywhere can be affected by bad news. I also thought the woman who was her hired help was intriguing, and when she disappeared from the movie it seemed to just be a bit more boring.

Filming: The movie has some really pretty shots. I’m not sure if it’s just something from French films or what, but they have the prettiest shots and the film just seems modern in movement. With American movies it seems they were still more stuck on the shots being still while the characters moved, but French filmmakers moved with their characters wherever they went. Also, the lighting is well done and feels very natural. It has this very bright quality to it despite the black and white movie.

Plot: The plot does get slow, and despite the only 1 hour and a half running time I felt like I was watching it much longer. I get that it is artsy, and more so a character self-exploration thing, but nothing happened, and I never felt connected enough to the character to just jump in and care about where it was going. I just wanted it to hurry to the ending the entire time. I also didn’t get the use of color with the tarot cards and then the whole rest of the movie switches to black and white. You can have a well shot movie and good acting, but if the plot just feels lifeless I don’t know what to get into about the movie.

Cleo From 5 to 7 just seems to be lacking in some unique flare and a story that is intriguing. I tried to just let myself flow with the story, but at times I was trying so much to focus. I like how it has this dark tone throughout and the movie doesn’t feel as pretentious as the others that it would most likely be related to, but Cleo just didn’t strike a connection with me. To end with positives though, it was beautifully shot, and had a great score that brought out some emotion.

Rating 5 of 10.

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