CINÉSALON: CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 (CLÉO DE 5 À 7) (Agnès Varda, 1962)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, January 28, $13, 4:00 & 7:30
After getting a biopsy taken and drawing the death card while consulting a fortune-teller, popular French singer Cléo (Corinne Marchand) begins looking back at her life — and wondering just what’s left of it — while awaiting the dreaded results. The blonde beauty talks with old friends, asks her piano player (Michel Legrand, who composed the score) to write her a song, and meets a dapper gentleman in the park, becoming both participant and viewer in her own existence. As Cléo makes her way around town, director (and former photographer) Agnès Varda (Le Bonheur, Vagabond) shows off early 1960s Paris, expertly winding her camera through the Rive Gauche. Just as Cléo seeks to find out what’s real (her actual name is Florence and that gorgeous hair is a wig), Varda shoots the film in a cinema verité style, almost as if it’s a documentary. She even sets the film in real time (adding chapter titles with a clock update), enhancing the audience’s connection with Cléo as she awaits her fate, but the movie runs only ninety minutes, adding mystery to what is to become of Cléo, as if she exists both on-screen and off, alongside the viewer. A central film in the French Nouvelle Vague and one of the first to be made by a woman, Cléo de 5 à 7 is an influential classic even as it has lost a step or two over the years. A new digital restoration of Cléo de 5 à 7 is screening January 28 at 4:00 & 7:30 as part of the FIAF CinéSalon series “Remastered & Restored: Treasures of French Cinema”; the later screening will be introduced by French author Catherine Cusset. The three-month festival continues with such other recently restored French classics as Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved from Drowning (introduced by Henry Bean), Jacques Demy’s Une chambre en ville (introduced by Adam Gopnik), and Max Ophüls’s Lola Montès (introduced by Lola Montes Schnabel).