Cléo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962)
As for the film itself, I had a great time with it. I loved the way the film is temporally and geographically exact, something the director made a point of mentioning prior to the start of the film. She talked about how she wanted to eschew the general tendency that films have to cheat time and generally have time ellipses. What was charming was the way she talked about this. She specifically pointed out that she doesn't think the time-cheat is a big deal... that it's a legitimate cinematic tool / device but that at the time, she was equally interested in both documentary and narrative cinema and intrigued by the idea of making a film that would actually measure time as its measured in reality. Also that she wanted to show certain parts of Paris and ensure that the route that Cléo takes in the film would be the actual streets that people would use to go from pt. A to pt. B and so on. Just the way she said all this made it seem totally sincere and not gimmicky at all in any way.
Coming from La Pointe-Courte
, I was tempted to view the treatment of time in Cléo
as another attempt to impose a very literary structure on film — something emphasized by the use of chapter titles. In that sense, it didn't really interest me. But it works great as a self-imposed restriction on the film, allowing/forcing Varda to fill the empty time that would traditionally have been edited out — much of which comprised my favorite moments in the film.
Another scene from earlier on that made me smile a lot as well is the scene where Cléo and her assistant (?) are in a cafe and her assistant is narrating a story and we see Cléo being distracted and along with Cléo, we too lose the story thread and seamlessly move on to eavesdropping on a conversation that another couple is having at an adjacent table.
Yes! I thought that was particularly great. I was happiest whenever the filmmaking was at its most subjective.
Also, loved the kid playing the musical instrument at the street corner and the way that music becomes the score as Cléo walks out the gate.
The use of music in the film is really awesome. I particularly love when she's singing that song in her apartment with just the piano and then as the song builds we cut to a closeup of Cléo and barely even notice the way a full orchestration has snuck in on the soundtrack, strings and all. And Cléo playing her own song on the jukebox at the cafe was areally nice character moment.
So yeah, for a film that is primarily about 2 hours in the life of a woman who is waiting for a potentially fatal medical test result, I found myself smiling a lot during the film. And I think it is this lightness in handling a theme with a fair amount of gravitas is what I think I liked the most about the film.
I think I agree and disagree at the same time. I did like the general lightness and I smiled a whole lot, but until late in the film, I didn't really take the whole medical test thing seriously. Given Cléo's character, it seemed so probable that she was just overreacting, diva-like, and there wasn't anything to worry about at all. The use of tarot cards and superstitions to set the stakes only added to that feeling, I think. That definitely changed for me with the scene in the park, though, where Cléo seemed to be at her most vulnerable.
Another question was about the silent film sequence within the film and someone wanted to know why she chose to have that. She said that she had always noticed that people tend to lose interest in the film at some point during the film and that she was particularly afraid that people would get tired of walking around Paris with Clèo. So she wanted to have something that would distract people from Clèo's troubles and revive their interest in the film.
I found that scene to have the opposite effect on me, breaking the film's spell on me. Damn those test audiences! I think the short kept us away from Clèo for too long — from either her face or her perspective. I didn't really see her focusing on that film as intently as we were forced to, not given her mindset going into that scene. And, honestly, I didn't think the short was really good enough to command her attention.
She also spoke a little bit about how the street scenes in Clèo really blend documentary and narrative styles. She had asked the street performers to perform at those specific places so Clèo could bump into them but the rest of the footage seems to have been completely natural. Similarly, barring a couple of cafe guests who were actors, a lot of the other patrons discussing art and so on were just normal cafe guests who just happened to be there at the time.
I defnitely got that sense from those scenes, and that's largely why I liked them so much, I guess. In fact, even though the scenes in the apartment are good, I thought the suffered a bit in this context, lacking all the atmosphere of the exterior shots.
She doesn't really see the ending as being about Clèo being saved by meeting a man.
The last few moments had mereally bracing for something regrettable, but I'm pretty much okay with the end. I would have been really annoyed if we irised in on a kiss or some shit like that. The trading of romantic smiles was dangerous enough.
She sees it more as Clèo finally listening to other people and making a connection and being able to look beyond her own fears.
Hmm, watching the film, I didn't really think about Clèo having an arc or this being a transformative experience for her. I think that's probably fortunate. It all sounds a little too neat on paper. As is, I really liked this film a lot. The tracking shot into the art studio might be my favorite of the marathon so far. Just the way that one guy is trying so violently to hack a woman's nude form out of plaster, juxtaposed with the perfectly beautiful model — it's really great.
- What do you make of the beginning being shot in color?
I thought, as with La Pointe-Courte
, "What a great way to start a film!" It's shot really well and is so instantly engaging and vividly movie-like, then the switch to a more realist black-and-white style sort of pulls the rug out from under that initial engagement, but also adds to the sense of realism and paves the way for the real-time motif, I think.