Cleo de 5 a 7
Cléo de 5 à 7, Agnes Varda’s classic work of 1962 depicts, in near real time, ninety minutes in the life of Cléo, a young woman in Paris awaiting the results of medical tests that she fears will confirm a fatal condition. The film, whose visual beauty matches its evocation of early Fifth Republic Paris, was a major point of reference for the French New Wave despite the fact that Varda, the only major female French director of the period, never considered herself a member of the core Cahiers du Cinéma group of critics turned filmmakers.
Ungar provides a close reading of the film and situates it in its social, political and cinematic context, tracing Varda’s early career as a student of art history and a photographer, the history of post-war French film, and the lengthy Algerian war to which Cléo’s health concerns and ambitions to become a pop singer make her more or less oblivious. His study is the first to set a reading of Cléo’s formal and technical complexity alongside an analysis of its status as a document of a specific historical moment.
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