On 27 December 2016, Carrie Fisher died. It seemed impossible that such a wickedly funny and resilient personality could be extinguished. Like her life, Fisher’s death was bound up in her fictional image. Across countless obituaries the dominant image of Fisher was of her as Princess Leia. “Her portrayal of the sardonic and self-rescuing princess redefined the archetype,” claims the book Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy. Her return to the public eye via the Star Wars sequel trilogy coinciding with the emergence of fourth-wave feminism meant she was heralded as a feminist icon for a new generation. Uproariously outspoken on misogyny in Hollywood and the stigmatisation of mental health issues, Fisher held her trademark middle finger up to those determined to dismiss her. Images of Leia could be seen on protest signs at 2017 Women’s Marches all over the world.
The protagonists of Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) and Let the Sunshine In (2017) could almost be mother and daughter. Although separated by over fifty years, Agnès Varda’s Cléo (Corrine Marchand) and Claire Denis’s Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) both traverse the streets of Paris, searching for solace against the ceaseless passage of time. Cléo is an ingénue pop singer while Isabelle is a recently-divorced and middle-aged woman, but both experience time as a malignant force. Both films are about 90 minutes long, but while Varda tells Cléo’s story in near real time, time in Denis’s film is vague and slippery.