Review – Cléo from 5 to 7


Agnes Varda’s 1961 is a brilliant film about a carefree young woman who is gravely awaiting for her medical diagnosis. It is a stunningly crafted film which focuses not only on space but also on time; so much so that a viewer can draw a precise map of  Cleo’s (Florence Victoire) path and consider touristically re-creating her journey from the begining till the end.

Florence Victoire, who is better known by her stage name Cleo Victoire (as in Cleopatra), is a singer with three hit singles to her name. Two days ago, she went in for some tests for abdominal issues to see if it is cancer. She will be getting the results today at 6:30 pm. She is certain that it will be a terminal cancer diagnosis and hence her mind fixed on that outcome. She visits a fortune teller who predicts stomach cancer which is what she is afraid of that she mightdie.

Afterwards she puts on a black dress, takes off her wig, and tries to see things from a different perspective. The thought of the medical results affects how she approaches the day, from her encounters with friends and acquaintances to what she observes in total strangers around her. It could be as simple as how she views the lyrics to new songs presented to her from her songwriting team, to her feelings about a conversation she overhears in a café between a couple having relationship problems, to the typical sweet nothings spoken to her from her lover. There are certain things that do temporarily take her mind off of waiting for the test results but something will always bring her back to that as the issue of her day. At the end, she meets a soldier who is going to the war in Algeria the next day. He accompanies her to the hospital but the doctor wasn`t there. Sitting on the bench, they saw the doctor rolled by in his car and told her that she will be fine and completely cured with two months of treatment. she was relieved and for the first time in at least two days she was finally happy.

Cleo being the central character of the film, loves and suffers and eagerly waiting for the medical reports that will decide her future. She is also self obsessed, petulant and absent minded. But she is transformed from a distracted and vain entertainer into someone whose emotions grew deeper.

Time is as much a theme in cleo from 5 to 7. The entire film is based on the  two very different sorts of time: the real clock time; passing second by second with its end point of the news when Cleo will receive from her doctor, and  the concept of the experience of time that contracts or expands according to how we feel it. The film revolves around these emotional states apprehension, boredom, desire.



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