Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)
August 17, 2015 7:18 AM - Subscribe

While waiting two hours for the results of a biopsy, a French singer visits a fortune teller; drinks coffee and buys a new hat with her housekeeper; is visited by her lover and her composers; visits her model friend; and has a brief affair with a military man. (Available to watch commercial-free for Hulu subscribers here, and to rent from iTunes here.)

Part of the Criterion on Hulu film club. If you're not a Hulu subscriber, we discuss a second film each week that's free to non-subscribers. More info here.
posted by Ian A.T. (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This movie is so great.

I for one was pleasantly shocked at the number of female actors/extras, especially in the street and cafe scenes. Since a giant part of the movie is about Cléo existing in a world where other people have their own existences, it actually felt like Varda was deliberately arranging the movie to reflect that women exist in the world.
posted by Hypatia at 10:27 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm going to rewatch this, but there are a couple things I want to point out really quick right now.

Pay special attention to the camerawork and everything going on around in the background and the periphery. This is one of the most beautifully crafted movies I've ever seen. This is a perfect example, to me, of cinema being so much greater than just the sum of its parts. Varda is just unparalleled in her ability to capture movement and mood on camera.

Watch the scenes of Cleo walking down the stairs, navigating the cafe and the sidewalk, on the bus, and the final scene, walking toward the camera. There is just so much going on in this movie. Her camera work is so dynamic and so engaging I can just watch scenes of people walking over and over again and never get tired of it.

One weird thing about Agnes Varda movies is that superficially at least, they don't look much alike. Unlike other directors who have a specific, readily identifiable visual or storytelling style, she has range. Her 'style' is really mostly her eye for movement and her ability to create a unique and evocative style for the story she's filming.

A bunch of times, I've been watching one of her movies and thought, "Oh, look. An homage to [something]," and then I look at the release dates and realize that no, she did it first. The most obvious one is her first film, La Pointe Courte, which you would reasonably think was influenced heavily by Bergman's Persona. Nope. La Pointe Courte predates Persona by something like eleven years. Some of what I'd considered iconic Bergman shots were all but lifted directly from Varda. (Here is a great picture of her on the set of La Pointe Courte, just in case anyone else loves it as much as I do.)

OK. I am going to watch this again and then probably talk more about this movie specifically. Because apparently, I have a lot to say about this.

(BTW, the couple starring in that silent movie they watch is played by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.)
posted by ernielundquist at 11:07 AM on August 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Cleo is the sort of over-dramatic person who has a theater curtain installed inside her apartment so she can run behind it when she needs to flounce offstage and pout. This movie is full of little characterizations like that! I recommend it to everyone I know.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:47 PM on August 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Someday I am going to go to Paris, find that park staircase, and SWAN DOWN IT like Cleo.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:47 PM on August 17, 2015

I had this entire comment written up based on how clever it was that Cleo lived on Rue Huysmans.

Joris-Karl Huysmans wrote A rebours (Against Nature), an experimental 1884 novel that shares a lot with this film: "Its narrative concentrates almost entirely on its principal character and is mostly a catalogue of [his] tastes and inner life." It's a mostly plot-free examination of a single eccentric character over a set period of time, and I applauded

But alas, rewatching the film I see that Cleo actually lives on Rue Huygens, named for the Dutch mathematician and astronomer...
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:24 AM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

“Cleo From 5 To 7: 1962 French Cinema, Tarot & The Gaze,” Steph Spiro, Luna x Luna, 30 June 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 11:18 PM on August 25, 2015

I really liked this one. The subtle cuts on the bus ride struck me as especially interesting. For me, the masterstroke was the ending. The doctor doesn't actually tell Cleo her diagnosis. He just says, "Two months of chemotherapy will fix you right up." Then he drives off in his jaunty convertible. I'm surprised he didn't honk and wave too.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:01 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

The doctor doesn't actually tell Cleo her diagnosis. He just says, "Two months of chemotherapy will fix you right up."

From the beginning of the movie she's terrified that she's going to get a fatal cancer diagnosis. No matter what, it's a terrible reminder of mortality for someone who's based her life around her youth and beauty, and she acts exceptionally childish for the next hour, like a version of the male midlife crisis. But she's still hoping against hope that the diagnosis will be a total false alarm, and she can go on being young and beautiful.

What she actually learns from the doctor is neither thing! She does have cancer, but she's not going to die. However: two months of chemo (hair loss, etc.) is not going to be kind to someone like Cleo, and she'll never look "nubile" again. Adulthood, uncertainty, and mortality are going to be part of her world from now on. Her soldier, who treats her as a peer, would stay with her, but her older lover, who delights in lavishing gifts on a pwetty wittle girl, would move on to the next sugar baby.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 5:01 PM on August 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

The cats totally make the film. Seriously, I love that interjection of chaos into the apartment scenes.
posted by octothorpe at 7:07 PM on January 26, 2016

To expand, I loved this film. I was not really aware of Varda as a filmmaker and I've got a lot of catching up to do now. I'm currently dealing with a re-occurrence of a (non-lifethreatening) health issue and this film really captures how alienating illness can be. You walk around perplexed that all these people are going on with their lives while you're having to deal with tests and doctors and having that always weighing on you.
posted by octothorpe at 4:29 AM on January 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Man I really loved this! I thought it was really interesting how everyone calls her spoiled but it's much more of an informed characteristic than anything we ever see on screen. What she wants is for people who say they care about her to actually care I think, and instead she can't get that at all. I see the soldier though a stranger, as someone who actually is listening to her, is happy to chat about the good and the bad. The second half with them really did remind me of the Before trilogy too.
posted by Carillon at 11:03 AM on January 6, 2022

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