Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Urban Drama  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - France, Italy  |  
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Writer/director Agnes Varda's Cléo de 5 à 7 is one of the more unassuming works in the French New Wave -- it has neither the historical gravity of, say, Alain Resnais's Hiroshima Mon Amour nor the shock value of Jean-Luc Godard's À Bout de Souffle -- but in its own quiet way, it offers offers a meticulous record of one woman's capacity to observe, dream, and feel. In near real-time, we follow pop singer Cléo (Corrine Marchand) as she waits for her doctor's verdict on a cancer test; though the subject matter is heart-rending, Varda's athletic direction prevents the film from becoming a cloying weepie. In true New Wave fashion, she incorporates any technique that suits her needs: a meandering soundtrack that picks up ancillary characters' conversations; subjective point-of-view shots; titles that separate the film into "chapters"; and documentary-style snatches of street life. Instead of cluttering the film, Varda's flourishes have a breezy, existential quality that underscores Cléo's impending news without trivializing her predicament. Marchand aids the director immensely; her intuitive performance suggests a brainier Marilyn Monroe afflicted with spiritual malaise.