French New Wave cinema has never been one of my favorite film movements, despite being one of the most important and artistic movements cinema has ever seen. These films are the definition of existentialism and prefer to ask long-winded questions about life, love and our purpose in the universe, not unlike Ingmar Bergman’s films. This style has its place in asking important questions about what’s truly important in life, but it’s like watching the same well-crafted painting for two hours – you can admire the details and subilties, but it isn’t enough to keep it interesting for that long.
“Cleo from 5 to 7” is one of the most widely known entires in the French New Wave, alongside “Breathless” and “The 400 Blows.” But “Cleo” takes a vastly different angle, following one woman around Paris in real time as she waits for her test results to find out if she has cancer. She visits friends, sings, goes to bars and restaruants, all in an attempt to make her forget about her impending doom. So where other French New Wave films would meander and attempt to seem deep, “Cleo” focuses on a dying woman looking at life in Paris through an entirely new lense, wondering why she didn’t see it like this before and if this will be the last time she gets to see the beauty of Paris. This certainly elevates “Cleo from 5 to 7” above other French New Wave films I’ve seen, elevated by a wonderfully captivating and heartbreaking performance from Corinne Marchand.
Final Grade: B