Two breezy, jam-packed hours (actually one and a half) set on the longest day of the year: Clo from 5 to 7 certainly fits its breathless New Wave moment perfectly. But at the end of the duration lies, very possibly, personal apocalypse. Rising pop star Clo (the adorably melodramatic Marchand) frets over the results of a biopsy, which she’s sure will reveal cancer. Her emotional transformation, from self-absorbed object of desire to scrappier observer, lends Agns Varda’s slice of life (shot in crisp b&w except for an early color spread of ominous tarot cards) an existential gravity that sets it apart even from its esteemed Cahiers-spawned company.
What’s a girl to do while waiting for a death sentence other than go shopping for foofy hats? Clo is also seen breaking down in a caf and entertaining witty company (including composer Michel Legrand, whose romantic ditties here are heartbreaking). But it’s after Clo sheds her polka-dot dress and wig that her deeper liberation begins: an engagement with a wider world that Varda’s work—much of it documentary—has come to represent. Clo meets a charming soldier on leave (Bourseiller) and braces herself in the glow of his attention. By film’s end, she might be capable of anything. A key movie of a dawning, free-spirited decade, Clo remains essential. (Now playing; IFC Center.) — Joshua Rothkopf