Time is of the essence in Agnès Varda’s second feature, her breakthrough that established her as one of the most important members of a new generation of French filmmakers.
The director of ‘Vagabond’ and ‘Faces Places’ makes the passage of time key to the story of a young singer awaiting the prognosis of medical tests late one afternoon. Unfolding almost in real time, we see the woman meet a friend, colleagues, a lover and a young Frenchman about to embark for military service in a conflict-strewn Algeria (when the film unfolds, the country was fighting for its independence from its French colonial rulers). The man’s thoughts of his own mortality tap into Cléo’s own fears, but Varda’s film doesn’t wallow in self-pity. It is by turns witty, exuberant – Paris has rarely looked so alive – and moving.
Arriving just two years after Jean-Luc Godard broke the conventions of cinematic language with ‘Breathless’ and cementing the arrival of the French New Wave, Varda’s film continued the revolution with a film that feels as fresh today as it did the year it was first released.
★★★★★ "A pioneering glory of the new wave" - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian