Agnès Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer set adrift in the city as she awaits test results of a biopsy. A chronicle of the minutes of one woman’s life, Cléo from 5 to 7 is a spirited mix of vivid vérité and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.
When I think of interesting filmmakers, the world over, whose movies are always a pleasure to watch, I thank God every day for Agnès Varda. I had her '4 Films by' Criterion boxed set, seemingly forever, left unwatched, and I don't really know why. Perhaps I felt her films wouldn't excite me enough, I don't know. I certainly enjoy foreign, and French, filmmaking enough. Maybe it was because she was female, I don't know. I hope not, but I'm simply being honest. Sometimes I'm apprehensive about starting to investigate the works of a director who's different from me: Female, non-English, non-Caucasian. I think it's difficult for me to start, because I'm afraid that I won't be able to fully emphasize with their sphere of reference, and thus won't be able to either appreciate or enjoy the filmic experience as much as I should. Once I start, and watch that first film I see of theirs, I'm fine. But until that point, it's truly a challenge. My university library had her two recent critically-acclaimed films, 'The Gleaners and I' and its sequel, on one DVD, and one of my favourite critics, Roger Ebert, had made a 'Great Movie' article about the original. So I gave that series a viewing, each film a separate night, and I fell in love with her as a person, and found that her films were not going to be a challenge for me at all. Thus I then turned to my previously-imposing, aforementioned boxed set, and went through it chronologically. This, the second film of the set, was extraordinary, basically a real-time cinematic exercise of a lady who is waiting for the results of a biopsy, and thus wondering if her quality of life is going to be seriously challenged or not. In it, as I've found in all of her films so far, there's an extraordinary visual flair, a great and natural storytelling facility present, and you can really tell that Varda both loves people and is glad to be alive, and it shows in everything she does. If you are in a similar boat, and are reluctant to investigate Varda's works, please do yourself a favour and don't hesitate any longer. Appreciate this extraordinary woman and her work while she is still alive. You will never be the same.