Friday, July 01, 2005

Cléo de 5 à 7

1962, France, directed by Agnès Varda

One of the quintessential movies of the nouvelle vague, this is probably also one of those films that only underlines the prejudices of those who dismiss such fare as arthouse claptrap. The set-up is breathtakingly simple: we follow Cléo, a singer with a few hits to her credit, as she wanders Paris for two hours while waiting for the results from an important medical test. She's an astonishingly busy woman, who manages to cram in a visit to a fortune-teller, a walk in the park, some shopping, a visit from her lover, a meeting with her music-men, a drink in a bar, a viewing of a short film and numerous bus and taxi rides in the time we spend with her: titles flash up telling us the length of each element of her peregrinations, and some of the encounters are almost comically short. The film is alternately infuriating and compelling, as befits Cléo's often self-indulgent whims: Michel Legrand's appearance is exceptionally amusing, while the jabbering of a taxi driver is merely distracting, and Cléo's final encounter seems out-of-character. Still, the use of Paris as a movie character has rarely been bettered: the scene in the café is a gem of Parisian street life, while viewers may find themselves trying to locate the gorgeous Hôpital Américain garden which features prominently in the closing scenes.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States