It's odd, I know, to call a film charming when its focus is about a woman's two hours of waiting before finding out if she has cancer. But "Cleo" isn't a sad story about cancer, really. It's a charming story about how to live your life somewhere between the superficial and profound when something alarming happens.
Cleo's a pop singer. She sings light ditties that get French radio play. She spends her time shopping for hats, hanging out in cafes, carrying on meaningless-if-romantic affairs with songwriters. She's beautiful. She's fashionable. On the surface, she looks like she's having a good time. And she usually is.
This movie's about what she did in the two hours before receiving her prognosis from her doctor. Should she just go on and live life as if nothing's come along to trouble her? If she chooses to, how does she go about confronting her own mortality?
Corinne Marchand, as Cleo, chooses both paths for her. As she wanders the streets of Paris, she plays Cleo as though she's unable to decide whether to be happy-go-lucky. Thus, the lush, beautiful film by Agnes Varda is both light and resonant, fun and meaningful.
It's like an "Amelie" that will make you cry as well as laugh.
Done in a style predating the French New Wave, it manages to be about how to go shopping when you may be about to die.
And the Criterion release is just great.