Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)

cleo from 5 to 7 poster 1962 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great tour of Paris, interesting and accessible art house type of movie


Movie Info

Movie Name: Cléo from 5 to 7

Studio:  Ciné-tamaris

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  April 11, 1962 (France)/September 4, 1962 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

cleo from 5 to 7 sunglasses corinne marchand

Yeah…I also wear my sunglasses at night

Superficial Cléo Victoire (Corinne Marchand) is a singer who sees death in her future.  She is awaiting hearing the results from a test that could tell her if she’s ill, but a bad fortune at a card reader seems to confirm her suspicions.  With her maid Angèle (Dominique Davray), her lover José (José Luis de Vilallonga), and her co-creators Bob (Michael Legrand), and Maurice (Serge Korber) unable to provide what she needs, Cleo heads out into Paris to pass the time until the doctor can provide her diagnosis.  First meeting her friend Dorothée (Dorothée Blanck) and then a young sailor named Antoine (Antoine Bourseiller), Cléo awaits her fate.

Written and directed by Agnès Varda, Cléo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7) is a French New Wave drama.  Following Varda’s La Pointe Courte in 1955, The movie frequently makes “Best Of” lists and noted for being one of the first major works from a female director.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #73) and also released the film as part of 4 by Agnès Varda boxset and The Complete Films of Agnès Varda.

I can’t always do French New Wave.  It is sometimes so intentionally tweaked that it feels like the directors are trying too hard to be edgy and different than the standard film.  Cléo from 5 to 7 has a few of these really typical New Wave traits, but largely, the film is a story…and laced with discussions about life and living.

cleo from 5 to 7 corinne marchand cafe

Cleo is all up in their business…

It is an odd film.  It rolls out as what today would be a typical plot for a rom-com.  Cléo is spoiled and impetuous.  A known singer, she wants people to just notice that she’s sick instead of having to tell them, but she also has done this before.  When she doesn’t get the reaction she wants from her lover, coworkers, and maid, she hits the streets to visit friends and wander…it feels kind of needy, but she is also truly scared (probably unlike previous fears she had).  In a rom-com, Cléo would change, meet a man (aka the Antoine character), find unconditional romance, and learn she was not sick…but she would also be a better person at the end of the day.  Here, Cléo is sick, and the fact that the tarot cards have been right all along implies that she very well might die.  She finds a man she enjoys spending time with but he is also leaving on deployment…but despite this Cléo does change and feels content at the end of the day.

As much as they try to make Cléo kind of likeable at the beginning, it is tough because Corinne Marchand comes off as likeable even when she is pouty and using her looks and celebrity to influence the people around her.  The people in Cléo’s life largely feel like fake friends or friends that are only friends because they are paid to work with her.  Only Antoine played by Antoine Bourseiller seems to just talk to her and their conversation is kind of refreshing and real in a movie where it does feel like a lot of posturing by people.

cleo from 5 to 7 corinne marchand antoine bourseiller bus

Cleo finds love…or not

Visually, the film is a nice showcase for Paris.  Cléo travels the city from parks to cafes.  There is also an odd silent movie sequence in a theater featuring a silent film starring Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina, Eddie Constantine, and Jean-Claude Brialy.  The film occasionally uses voice-overs (rarely), but also has a lot of jump cuts and rough edits which isn’t unusual in French New Wave.

Despite being an almost cliché art house film, Cléo from 5 to 7 is surprisingly accessible and not as arty as you’d expect.  There are New Wave mentalities implanted in the film like existentialism and oppression, but you don’t even really need to follow them to enjoy the film.  It is a must for film fans, and it is a movie that can still be enjoyed by all.  Varda followed Cléo from 5 to 7 with Le Bonheur in 1965.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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