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Blue Night
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Blue Night

Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Fabien Constant’s “Blue Night,” a sensitive but shallow homage to 1962’s “Cléo from 5 to 7,” is that it convincingly validates the idea of updating the Agnès Varda classic. The worst thing that can be said about it is that it peaks with a Sarah Jessica Parker cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” during the closing credits, but we’ll get to that later.

The story of a beautiful young woman’s brush with mortality, Varda’s film used the timelessness of its premise as an opportunity to contextualize the topical despairs of the day, which ranged from the ongoing Algerian War to Édith Piaf’s recent stomach ulcer surgeries. Seen through the eyes of a potentially dying chanteuse — the film’s title refers to the anxious hours that its heroine spends waiting for the results of a biopsy — everything became equally small, and the narcissistic Cléo was liberated from the limits of her own self-image. In 2018, when the promise of interconnectivity has prioritized self-image above all else, and communication has become so diffuse that we can no longer tell who’s even listening, Varda’s New Wave fable is ripe for reinterpretation.

And “Blue Night” is definitely a reinterpretation, not a remake. Screenwriter Laura Eason (“House of Cards”) borrows Varda’s basic structure, but flips it sideways with a deceptively major twist in the very first scene: Whereas Cléo Victoire was afraid that she might be terminal, Vivienne Carala (Parker) is shell-shocked by the news that she is. Sitting alone in a Manhattan doctor’s office, the famous jazz singer is told that she has an aggressive brain tumor, and that the average life expectancy for someone with her diagnosis is 14 months.

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