Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Cleo de 5 a 7

Why had I not seen Agnes Varda's CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 before now? I saw her LE BONHEUR on its release back in 1965 (when I was 19) and liked it a lot, it stayed in my memory since then so it was good to get Vol 1 Agnes Varda boxset recently and discover how fresh and captivating and engrossing CLEO still is. I know Paris well (having been there at least 20 times since the 60s) and seeing Varda's 1961 film now is practically like being in Paris as so much of it is spent in cars driving around the city and lots of walking too. A joyful extra on the dvd is the car journeys re-done now in the modern city 49 years later!

Its a deceptively simple narrative as pop singer Cleo (Corinne Marchand) whiles away 2 hours in the cafes, shops (buying a hat), streets and parks of Paris, taking in a visit to a cinema where she and her friend see a slapstick short (featuring the likes of Anna Karina, Godard, Sami Frey and Jean Claude Brialy) and then she meets a soldier, as she awaits the results of a medical test. The film starts with a tarot reading that scares her and we see how she gradually changes and strips off her frivolity along with her wig and faces the possibility of her illness. There is no neat conclusion at the end but she faces the future with renewed hope and feeling happy. Its very affecting. Affecting too seeing Marchand now (a tres chic glamorous old lady - like Taina Elg now discussing the 1957 LES GIRLS on that dvd's extras) in the documentary as she and Varda (below) and the cast and crew revisit and discuss the film.
Its cerainly one of the best of the free-wheeling new wave films of the early 60s - and shows Paris as the vibrant city it was and is - like those other famous ones of the time: Truffaut's THE 400 BLOWS or Godard's BREATHLESS and Malle's LIFT TO THE SCAFFOLD. A nice discovery for me a while ago was Jean-Pierre Mocky's LES DRAGUEURS [reviewed in my first post here...] , also 1959, showing Paris by night as Charles Aznavour and Jacques Carrier drive around the city trying to pick up girls and meet the likes of Anouk Aimee, Belinda Lee and Dany Robin.

Fascinating too to see in CLEO the young Michel Legrand and that lovely tune he and Cleo sing at the piano. The film is lively and engrossing - good to see it having an extended run in London as part of the Agnes Varda retrospective. I now have THE BEACHES OF AGNES (right) to see and catch up with some of her other films, nice to see her being celebrated in her 80s. Her film on her husband Jacques Demy (who died in 1990) is included in the UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG 2 disk dvd, and her 25th reunion film for LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT is on that film's BFI 2 disk release. Her JACQUOT DE NANTES is also pure delight, a lovely little film on Demy's early years in Nantes. I now love Demy's LOLA, BAY OF ANGELS, those musicals and the fairy tales DONKEY SKIN and THE PIED PIPER, and THE MODEL SHOP is a fascinating misfire (if only the young Harrison Ford had been cast, as Demy originally intended, but he had to use the rather wooden Gary Lockwood who had just done 2001!) - Aimee, Moreau and the Deneuve sisters all shine in Demy's films as Corinne Marchand does for Varda in CLEO FROM 5 TO 7. The dvd in the boxset also has a wealth of extras including Madonna (who had wanted to re-make it!) and Claudia Cardinale in an interview with Varda, and Varda's little film LES DITES CARIATIDES on the statues of caryatids in Paris. Essential!
Now for another Paris in 1960 choice from the Louis Malle box: ZAZIE DANS LE METRO!

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