Cléo from 5 to 7

Cléo from 5 to 7 ★★★★½

Out of everything I've seen in my dive into the French New Wave this weekend this one has aged the best. A modest emotional plot that effortlessly drifts from one pinnacle to the next through both objective and subjective realism with a discerning eye on the oppression of women. Structured in real-time with timestamps that act as chapters to tell us where we are in the day. Eat your heart out Da Vinci Code and 24.

It's all greatly existential. The film's protagonist wrestling with her own validity and mortality. She may be constantly enveloped by people in her life but their intentions are dubious or at least overshadow her own. There is a sense of fierce isolation as she's urged to sort with these dilemmas on her amongst herself often heard through her internal monologue.

Cleo herself is an interesting character who grows immensely amongst the hours of 5 to 7. She is scared and from where the film starts she has a right to be. But at the same time, she is needy, childish, and vein. She relies on everyone to take care of her from the musicians who write for her to a fortune teller for answers all the way down to her caretaker for just about everything else. Are we to judge her or feel for her? Is this the real her or just stereotypes that have been pressed upon her?

As the film moves along she begins to change. She forces others out of her life that she feels were exploiting her. She openly admits to her fears and changes her look letting her real hair down, expressing her true self. Most importantly she opens up to others and takes an active part in her life decisions. By the end of the film, she is an altogether new person while still being the same Cleo.

Visually the film is immaculate. Perfect composition. Perfect lighting. Varga is able to express her characters (yes, that includes Paris itself) entirely through visuals. This too goes for her approach of the New Wave style which is every bit as radical as others without being as garish or hyperbolic. I would say this all but confirms my favoritism towards the Left Bank.

Absolutely recommend.

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