Two hours from 17:00 to 19:00h on the longest day of the year in the life of a young Parisienne is presented. Florence Victoire, who is better known by her stage name Cléo Victoire (as in Cleopatra), is a singer with three hit singles to her name, and as such some renown. Two days ago, she went in for some tests for abdominal issues to see if it is cancer. She will be getting the results today at 18:30h. She is certain that it will be a terminal cancer diagnosis, her mind fixated on that outcome and what it actually means. This belief affects how she approaches the day, from her encounters with friends and acquaintances to what she observes in total strangers around her. It could be as simple as how she views the lyrics to new songs presented to her from her songwriting team, to her feelings about a conversation she overhears in a café between a couple having relationship problems, to the typical sweet nothings spoken to her from her lover, José. There are certain things that do ...Written by
After the rehearsal scene, when the pianist (Michel Legrand) says "self-pitying spoiled child," the shot is a composite. Michel's head and the background in front of him is one shot, and the background behind him is another shot, which pans towards Cleo after he speaks his line. The clocks on the ledge behind Michel can be briefly seen in two places at once. See more »
I took a walk after seeing this and felt cleansed like always after a great film, the night fresh. More so than womanhood or death, this is about having lived a life. She believes she's dying from cancer as the film begins, but of course we have to wait until the end to get the hospital results.
The Tarot cards of the opening are an entry; artifice, images in place of the real thing, and yet the old woman is spontaneous enough (or contriving) to improvise a story they supposedly tell, some of it vaguely correct, some not, but a story that just so happens to hit on the problem of her suffering and unlock personal truth.
The problem is desire, something we think is wrong with life. The filmmaker unveils in the early stages a marvelous space of desire, as poignant as any of Resnais' spaces on memory (the other debilitating facet of mind); the girl in a precious hat shop, safe on this side of the shop glass, gliding among and admiring trinkets we have come up with to dress life, make it more beautiful than it is.
Yet of course life has an ugliness we can't dress, but that's not out there, no hat will fix it. It's the constant vexation with things not being just perfect (which is desire for them to be other than they are), a lover who is not always there, a piano player who doesn't fawn over her singing talent. It's not just her of course, at a cafe we hear people complaining about all sorts of things.
What underpins this is ego, that self who must be at the center of things, the filmmaker playfully sketches this in a rehearsal scene, where as she sings, with a small pan of the camera we find her singing directly to us as if center stage for an imaginary audience, the center of attention.
But there's also, along the way, a bubbly friend who is open enough about things to pose naked for a sculpting class. Another marvelous image here, a naked body which does not have to overthink its place in the room, which can freely let others take away a glimpse that they can chisel into shape, something she can give of her that she doesn't lose.
It's all about the view we bring to life, the air of realization through which we see, the appearances we cultivate. This is beautifully rendered in a film-within the two girls see, a silent where a man throws away his dark glasses that obscured the way things really were to find his girl alive and well, she had just tripped, no one died. It's this easy.
But how can it be easy when she's dying?
The film doesn't clearly reveal, the doctor's unworried look can mean either of the two things. But of course that day will come just the same, it could be months or decades away. What's left then? Having lived a day just like this, having taken walks like these with a soldier in the park, bus rides like these through the first day of summer.
This is beautiful stuff, more simple but as deep about the life of appearances and consciousness as Hiroshima mon amour. It reminds me of the cheeky Buddhist saying that explains how there has never been anything wrong from the start.
Something to meditate upon.
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