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Cléo de 5 a 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7)

The Nouvelle Vague or New Wave of French cinema in my understanding is defined mainly by Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. When I first saw À Bout de Souffle (Breathless) directed by Godard (with a scenario by Truffaut), I was amazed. I’d read about the films a bit and knew vaguely about it and the movement, but hadn’t actually seen them. This was back in the 1980s and since then I’ve seen a lot more, but pretty much limited to the works by the same two men. Later I saw some excerpts from Agnès Vardas later work and read some writing about her, but hadn’t seen her early film from 1961, Cléo de 5 à 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7). I finally saw Cléo de 5 à 7 and sat with my mouth open in amazement. The film is a tour de force of acting, staging and direction. Shot after shot explores the role of a woman and the presentation of women in films. The style of shooting shifts as a singer awaits the news of a test of whether she has cancer or not. It ranges from drama, verité-style street scenes, musical, to a broad parody of silent comedies (featuring Godard). The film unfolds in approximately real time and is divided into chapters that break everything down to an almost minute-by-minute exploration. Like all great films you’ll look at the world in a different way and think about how films work and fall in love with cinema again.

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