Agnès Varda passes away: Cléo from 5 to 7 is one of the most famous films of veteran French filmmaker

Posted on April 4, 2019


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In the September/October issue of Film Comment, Agnès Varda said, “There is only one old friend left now, Jean-Luc Godard.” As a reader, I felt sad, but Varda was probably being very matter-of-fact about it. She said, “Although I’m quite happy to be old, my whole body often aches, and I have the feeling that the end is approaching. At some point, I will eventually bid farewell to my own life.” The interviewer asked if she was afraid of that. “No, no, not at all. I tell myself, my health is fading, I’m losing my memory, I am more and more weak… but these are all normal processes of human life.” If you’ve seen Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), you’ll recognise this philosophy isn’t something Varda acquired in her later years. In Cléo, the heroine faces death. But the film itself is less sad than… wistful, maybe.

Through the news on a car radio, we get a sense of the world of the time. There’s more rioting in Algeria. (The latest casualty figures: 20 dead, 60 wounded.) In Paris, before a military tribunal, a rebel in the Algiers uprising has been sentenced to six years in prison. The farmers’ unrest has lasted two weeks, and they have broken through police barriers. 4000 demonstrators in St. Nazaire shouted “Free the Bretons”. Three workmen in the Gennevilliers sewers were overcome by escaping gas. A young Englishman crossed the Channel in 6 hours and 20 minutes on a brass bedstead, mounted on floats. And if the newsreader had had the dope on a small-time pop singer named Cléo, he’d have probably said that she’s been feeling ill, she’s had a biopsy and is waiting for the results, and that she’s visited a tarot reader that day.

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