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Cléo de 5 à 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7)

Cléo de 5 à 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7)
Paris, France

Remember the science fiction television show Quantum Leap? In every episode the main character traveled in time to a new place and into somebody’s body. For one hour (TV time) he would become that person and live their life.

From a viewer’s perspective, watching the 1961 French New Wave classic Cleo from 5 to 7 is the concept’s older cousin, minus the huge serving of Americana. (That comparison will surely upset a few million people should they read it).

Wanna travel in time to early 1960s Paris and be a female chanteuse awaiting the results of her biopsy for two hours while she walks, talks, drinks, sings, shops, pouts, worries and renews? This then, mon freire, is your movie. The film’s vérité style allows the viewer a remarkable opportunity to experience a Paris frozen like a caveman in cinematic ice since 1961.

Look around. See the cars? The Citroën DS is everywhere, even as taxis. Older ladies patrol the streets armed with baguettes. Tired? What could be more Parisian than a stop at the quintessential French cafe? There are so many Gallic stereotypes inside its hard to find a seat. They’re all taken by intellectuals discussing among other things poetry and the war in Algeria. Here’s your cognac. Listen. French pop on the jukebox. And of course, cigarette smokers. You can almost smell the dark tobacco of the Galouise . Let’s go, wait, yes, of course, finally! A man wearing a black beret.

Cleo from 5 to 7 follows its namesake as she wanders and ponders her fate through parks, art studios, and hat shops. Perhaps even more revealing are the people she encounters. After all, places do not define themselves, they are defined by those who populate them. If the opposite were true, all cities then would be lifeless, concrete conglomerations of buildings and bridges. It is the Parisian that breathes life into Paris.

In this case, it is Cleo and company who personify the City of Lights. Her encounters with friends and strangers reveal the city’s character to us. Eccentric musicians, an uptight and superstitious maid, odd street performers, her friend the nude model, the soldier shipping out tomorrow. Without them we are nothing but travelers who never take a step off the tour bus.

Let them show you around town. You just might want to stay.

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