Cléo from 5 to 7 ★★★★★

There is a great theoretical framework concerning thoughts about life and death holding together Agnes Varda’s film. My first thoughts actually took me towards the Seventh Seal, a philosophical and metaphorical treatise using the imaginary potential of film to explore concepts regarding life and death. Varda’s work, while employing the same topic, uses a significantly altered aesthetic.

The issue of life and death is consistently haunting our main character, who struggles to find some kind of meaning to her existential predicament. How does one find joy in life- shopping, men, hobbies, fame, friends? No clear answer is ever given, but each manages to disappoint Cleo as being of too little support for her in this moment of crisis. Most notably, men’s condescending attitudes and their explicit use of Cleo highlight how little they have provided her nothing up until this point. It’s only as Cleo is confronted by a soldier heading to Algeria that her own predicament, while put into context, allows for the nihilist attitudes to seep away and present a more humanist interpretation of life.

Varda’s film is funny in the way it plays with form. There are obvious signatures of similar French New Wave directors: edits and camerawork that highlight the artifice of film itself, time stamps of our characters as they enter into these acts, a bombastic musical interlude, and a verité style that puts us on the streets with our characters. The moments feel as alive and pulsating as anyone walking through a crowded Parisian block. As experimental as this all feels, the film still feels dedicated to this character and how she handles the transformative meaning of life in this two-hour block.

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