Writing on Agnès Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7 feels like I’m back in my university years (I’m not 45 though-minus 20 on that number), however, unlike undertaking (and not finishing) an entire paper on the duality between Cleo’s (Corrine Marchand) identity and environment, this one will pass the quarter mark.
Cléo de 5 à 7 cements Cleo’s perspective at the forefront: opening the film in colour with intertitles synchronized with the cards and hands on screen, Cléo de 5 à 7 composes the images in an orderly filmic setup, while the point of view shots between Cleo and the card reader reinforces the visual artifice by switching from colour to B/W film and remaining a monochromatic colour scheme throughout. The narrative space is held within Cleo’s eyeline, reflecting back her immediate emotional space as dictated by the temporality suggested in the title (5 to 7 = within 2 hours). Cleo’s moments of emotional vulnerability disarm her initial persona: primarily superficial and narcissistic. Her narcissism is at the forefront, characterized by her consistent gaze into mirrors, affirming her own physical presence. Mirrors have a dual presence within her surroundings as they’re integrated within the walls of cafes she visits or as standalone objects she’s able to hold and manipulate. While she attains momentary holds of her own reflection, they are solely constituted by her need to reaffirm of her outward beauty, and that’s okay.
Ugliness is a kind of death… As long as I’m beautiful,I’m alive more than others.
From the beginning, Cleo progressively loses hold of her own image, which she attributes towards herself worth. She isolates two facets that work in tandem: talent and image. Her talent originates from her pop music career; wherein her image is utilized to sell her image-as pop music does to market acts. Cleo internalizes her fragmented projection, reinforcing her increasing air of dejection; highlighted through framing her reflection in mirrors within Paris, creating duplicates that veer from her own physical presence.
Cleo searches for herself both literally and figuratively, unable to connect with others around her while the film’s resolution finds her at ease.