Cléo de cinq à sept (Agnès Varda, 1962)
After Jacques Demy's Lola, his wife's Agnès Varda's Cléo de cinq à sept (1962), is the second Nouvelle Vague Rive gauche (Left Bank of the Seine River) production review, to be followed by Alain Resnais' La guerre est finie (1966), and finally short films by Rive gauche auteurs (Marker, Varda and Resnais).
There is a famous production shot of Cléo: The heroine on a bed in her studio, attended by about twelve men (technicians und beauticians at all levels), behind her Agnès Varda at the camera. So what appears as a first woman's movie is actually still in the man's world of the movies, where women are just the stars. I do not remember how women's lib reacted to it, but it remains an amazing film, and Agnès Varda, a very feminine figure, an exception to the rule. It also gives us a view of pre-1968 Paris, and is a deeply personal, never voyeuristic event.
Cléo, in a way like High Noon, the Western (Fred Zinnemann, 1952), is a real time movie, from five to seven. The lead, intelligently played by beautiful Corinne Marchand, is a singer who, this late afternoon, in understandable anxiety, awaits her specialist doctor's verdict on a detailed cancer test. With her servant and a friend, she runs various errands to kill time, visits a fortune teller, and, finally, is on her walk through Paris towards the hospital to collect the doctor's verdict. She is accompanied by a soldier on leave from the Algerian war, a chance meeting. The doctor's verdict is clear, but he sees considerable chances to heal by treatment.
What Jacques Demy's Lola (1962) addressed in a lighter form is here a more explicit, quasi an urban form of existentialism, with the themes of self-obsession (hence the many mirrors), mortality, despair. The film has a strong feminine viewpoint, asking how women are perceived. Cléo finds herself questioning the doll-like image people have of her, and is overcome by a feeling of isolation from her nearest. It is typically only in the company of a stranger - a soldier, who is regularly exposed to death - that she is able to have a sincere conversation that eventually put her problems in perspective.
The film includes a short silent slapstick strip with cameos by Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina, Eddie Constantine and Jean-Claude Brialy as characters. While full of cinematographic quotes - like Lumière's L'arroseur arose - it reminds you of the dream sequence insets in Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (1958). Most unusual, but fitting very well into the wider Dance des morts-motif of the film.