Not rated, but there is nudity (oddly enough, not very sexualized nudity, but it is also riding that fine line.) The entire movie has a subtext of sexuality, although there is no formal sexuality in the film. Mostly it's about sadness and how people deal with their own mortality. There's some mild drinking and probably tame language in the movie, but I don't really remember much in terms of language.
DIRECTOR: Agnes Varda
Oh man, I have the house all to myself right now. My father-in-law grabbed all of the older kids. My youngest is asleep. I have so many video games to play, but I feel like this is the best time to write about Cleo from 5 to 7. (Once again, I'm skipping accents while typing because they're annoying and I don't quite know how to do them quickly.) Cleo might have been my first real awakening to Varda. I'm now all over the place with Varda. I want to love everything that she's ever done, but I think I'm a fan of her up until mini-DV became a thing. But Cleo is such a good place to start, right? If you want the French New Wave made by someone who wasn't in the Cahier du Cinema, Cleo from 5 to 7 might be a perfect movie. (That being said, I also remember being moved by Vagabond, which has to be somewhere in my near future when it comes to rewatching movies.)
I wonder if the audience plays a bigger role in Cleo than they do in other movies. I honestly forgot that Cleo starts in vibrant color with a fortune teller. Now, I'm a very specific type of cynic. I want to have a better faith in Catholicism than I have right now and it is something that I'm working on. But I look at stuff like tarot card reading and palm reading as absolute hooey. Now, Varda gives so much characterization in this scene that I am in awe of how she does it. We don't see much of Cleo outsider of her hands. But if you were to talk about how important it is to foster indirect characterization, I would be hard-pressed than to look beyond the opening of Cleo. The astrologist has a very flat affect. Everything is professional and even keeled with this sequence. It's Cleo's inflections and choices that reveal anything that we need to know about the character. The astrologist says to choose nine cards and Cleo is the one to explain the role of the individual cards. When the astrologist has to pivot on the widow line, she rolls with the punch, leading to the most revealing moment of the scene.
The scene ends with Cleo pulling the death card. It's the inciting incident of the piece (for us...really, this is the nail in the coffin for something that Cleo was already going through). The astrologist pulling the death card comforts Cleo, establishing that Death doesn't necessarily mean literal death, so much as it means the transformation of one person into another. Cleo doesn't stand for that nonsense. Death is in her mind and the cards have confirmed it. Varda shows us something that a lot of movies really wouldn't have the guts to show us: the aftermath of that scene. Considering so much of the movie focuses on Cleo and her real time exploration of Paris, Varda takes her eye off of Cleo and onto the astrologist. Now, we learn something really important in this moment. The astrologist confesses to her coworker (?) that Cleo has cancer.
Now, this is where my cynicism comes in. The next two hours of her life, Cleo is stuck in a funk. She knows she has cancer. The astrologist tells us that she has cancer. We're just waiting for the confirmation from the doc. But everything else in the movie that this is a typical Tuesday for Cleo. Everyone else, to varying degrees of sympathy, consider Cleo to be melodramatic. Some are nicer than others. I think that, more accurately, Cleo is predisposed to listen to certain people over others. But I watch the movie thinking that there's only a small chance that Cleo has cancer. Maybe the idea is that pretty people in movies don't get cancer. But I'm on team Everyone-Else. I think that Cleo might have cancer, but she shouldn't get as worked up as she is based on little evidence.
I mean, I kept having the idea that Cleo from 5 to 7 was a story about dealing with mortality. But that's almost too easy of a read. If anything, this is an examination of faith and self-fulfilling prophecies. Now, I'm incredibly sympathetic to Cleo. Had I been in her shoes, I probably would have been a mess as well. But this is a story of someone who also has a hard time living from day-to-day. It's almost a story about someone who doesn't see life in front of them. That's why Antoine is so important to the story. It's weird, because Antoine shouldn't work as a character. He immediately gives off gross vibes. There's a parallel between the man reaching out in his car for Cleo and Antoine. I think that's supposed to be there. After all, Cleo finds the rude comment somehow funny, but that may be more on her.
Antoine is this guy who is reflective of the political landscape of France in '62. He's on the front with Algeria. He's fighting a war he hates, but also finds a joie de vivre that Cleo just can't seem to grasp. She is surrounded by art of all kinds around her. She's a singer, surrounded by talented musicians all day. Her friend is a nude model, understanding the value of art. Her friend / assistant takes her through the boutiques of Paris to take her mind off of the looming reaper on the horizon. Yet, she still gets upset. Instead, it's Antoine who shepherds through the most annoying news of all: she is not going to get a diagnosis at the end of the movie. Varda breaks her promise of an answer to what is going on and finds out the most awful thing of all that Cleo has to deal with is the unknown.
It would be easy to make Antoine "anti-art" or something, but he's the one who seems to appreciate art the most. He's not using art as an escape. Instead, art is what fills him. It is what keeps him going in the worst of times. Maybe he didn't know that Cleo was a singer, which is actually pretty likely given the fact that no one recognizes Cleo so much as remember her name when she drops it. But if Cleo's faith system is the mystic, the idea that someone who is so into art would be naturally drawn to an artist, even an artist dealing with an existential crisis. It's not like Antoine moves her to be the best performer in the world. As far as I remember, that's never discussed. But he's this guy who loves art because it speaks to the soul and he meets up with an artist in despair? Come on.
I'm going to keep this one short. I told myself that I had to stop writing these tomes and I said what I wanted to say in terms of analysis. In terms of joy, this is what I love with Varda. There's something hypnotic about Cleo from 5 to 7 that doesn't need deep analysis. It's a peaceful walk around Paris in real time. As much as this movie is about a woman dealing with an existential crisis, it is also just Paris: 1962. So much of it is that. It is gorgeous. It didn't even need to be black-and-white, you get that? The opening proves it could have been in sprawling technicolor, but no. Varda chooses the palate because it is gorgous and light. I almost hate the frame that I picked because it seems darker than the 4k version I just watched. Regardless, this is the movie that probably made me fall in love with Agnes Varda.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.