Showing posts tagged Cleo from 5 to 7

"Unlike most of the New Wave directors, Varda was trained not as a filmmaker or as a critic, but as a serious photographer. Try freezing any frame of the scenes in her apartment and you will find perfect composition—perfect, but not calling attention to itself. In moving pictures, she has an ability to capture the essence of her characters not only through plot and dialogue, but even more in their placement in space and light. While many early New Wave films had a jaunty boldness of style, Varda in this film shows a sensibility to subtly developing emotions."

— Roger Ebert reviews Cleo from 5 to 7

Still from Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962, dir. Agnes Varda). Cinematography by Paul Bonis, Alain Levent, Jean Rabier

"When I wrote and shot my first film in 1954, La Point Courte, I had hardly seen 10 films…My culture was books, painting and theater … If I had seen the masterpieces that I discovered later I certainly would not have dared to create a film at 26. My ignorance gave me freedom and audacity.”

— Agnes Varda 

Stills from La Pointe Courte (1955, dir. Agnes Varda) 

Composition #49

Le bonheur (1965, dir. Agnes Varda) Cinematography by Claude Beausoleil and Jean Rabier.  

I wrote about the narrative structure of this film here.

Compositions #1-48*

"A woman on the road is also sexual prey. She’s not understood: people wonder if she’s on the road because she hasn’t found a man - not only homeless and foodless, but manless…I wanted to deal with the subject as the subject is. You bump into her, know nothing about her, and all you can catch is what she is now. As a writer, I chose to forget about the writer’s position and acknowledge that I don’t know or understand her totally. I invented a character who eludes me.”

— Agnes Varda on writing Mona, the protagonist in Vagabond

Still from Vagabond (1985, dir. Agnes Varda)

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"We separated for a while in the 80s, but we got back together and we wanted to age together – I think people feel the frustration of not being able to do that. I’m aging alone because I had the pain of losing him and seeing him die. People have experienced that and they know that it can hurt you – but also that life brings you to love life."
— Agnès Varda on losing her husband, Jacques Demy, and the emotional impact of her film, The Beaches of Agnes (2008)

Still of Agnès Varda & Jacques Demy via french cinema

"We separated for a while in the 80s, but we got back together and we wanted to age together – I think people feel the frustration of not being able to do that. I’m aging alone because I had the pain of losing him and seeing him die. People have experienced that and they know that it can hurt you – but also that life brings you to love life."

— Agnès Varda on losing her husband, Jacques Demy, and the emotional impact of her film, The Beaches of Agnes (2008)

Still of Agnès Varda & Jacques Demy via french cinema

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"They called me ‘The Ancestor of the New Wave’ when I was only 30. I had seen very few films, which, in a way, gave me both the naivety and the daring to do what I did."

— Agnes Varda

One part is conceptualizing and ordering the world, and the other is accepting the world as it is. These two things together shape the visual arts.
Director Agnès Varda on the set of Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), one of my all-time favorite films.  I wrote a little thing about it here.

Director Agnès Varda on the set of Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), one of my all-time favorite films.  I wrote a little thing about it here.

(Source: behindtheillusions)

Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) dir. Agnes Varda

This is one of the films that I consider to be a bookmark in my film history.  There was my life before Cleo from 5 to 7 and there was life after this film; that’s how good it is.  The film chronicles Cleo, a French singer, as she waits to hear about her cancer diagnosis.  In the span of time (from 5 to 7) we follow Cleo as she rehearses with her pianist and songwriter, goes hat shopping (insanely amazingly beautiful camera work), rides in a cab, meets up with a friend, and then finally encounters a soldier who is on leave from fighting in the Algerian War. 

When people utter the words “French New Wave” this is the film (and filmmaker) that comes to mind. Agnes Varda plays with film language in ways that manage to feel buoyant yet grounded in something substantial and current.  Varda utilizes jump cuts, a film within a film (that features Godard and his then wife, Anna Karina), and has fun with diegetic and non-diegetic sounds.  All of this while Cleo waits for the diagnosis, a diagnosis which has less to do with cancer and more to do with a rumination on how we choose to live our lives, in the moments that we have them. Nothing is promised to Cleo as she sorts out how the world views her and how she views it; this film reminds me that all we have is time and the freedom that comes with knowing that’s all we have.

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