"Cleo de 5 a 7": French Film Guide by Valerie Orpen
"Cleo de 5 a 7" (1962) chronicles, in 'real time', ninety minutes in the life of rising pop singer Cleo Victoire, played by Corinne Marchand. Awaiting the results of a biopsy and fearing the worst, the charismatic protagonist seeks solace from a variety of characters on a June afternoon in Paris. Valerie Orpen follows Cleo's journey, providing a fascinating exploration of the film's unusual time structure and of the evocative mise-en-scene, which captures so vividly the Paris of the early 1960s. The only product of the French New Wave by a woman filmmaker, "Cleo de 5 a 7" is typical of the era stylistically and in many of its themes - Orpen here reveals the subtlety with which director Agnes Varda addresses topical issues such as the Algerian war, fear of cancer and the emptiness of fame. Yet, the film also retains a feminine, even feminist, slant unusual for the period, and Varda drew on a wider range of influences, including art and literature, than her cinephile male peers. Orpen tells the story of Varda's unorthodox beginnings as a filmmaker, and looks closely at the similarities and crucial differences between her work and that of her friend Godard and the other directors of the New Wave. Looking finally at critical responses to the film on its release, this lively guide makes clear the reasons why "Cleo de 5 a 7" continues to generate discussion and to draw in new audiences.