Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962, Fr.) (aka Cléo de 5 à 7)

In writer/director Agnes Varda's dramatic comedy (with some musical elements), her second feature film, it was about female identity, told as a meandering episodic character study about the impending doom facing a shallow, self-absorbed woman who feared the results of a medical examination, and was able to experience self-discovery; the Nouvelle Vague film was shot in real-time and marked with 13 precise chapter headings (timings from 5 to 7 pm) - supposedly two hours, although the film's actual length was 90 minutes, and should have been titled Cleo From 5 to 6:30:

  • the opening title sequence (the only sequence in color) began with the phrase: "Cut the deck, please"; the command was issued during a reading composed solely of close-ups of hands and tarot cards; the session, delivered by fortune teller Madame Irma (Loye Payen) to blonde pop singer Florence 'Cléo' Victoire (Corinne Marchand), ominously revealed Cleo's doomed fate - the Hangman's card of Death ("It means a complete transformation of your whole being")
Florence 'Cléo' Victoire (Corinne Marchand)
  • the central heroine was Florence 'Cléo' Victoire - a pretty but superficial, superstitious, distressed hypochondriac who was forced to wait two hours until the early evening for the results of diagnostic hospital tests regarding terminal stomach cancer
  • many times in the film, Cleo vainly and self-reflectively viewed herself in a mirror, at one time reassuring herself - in voice-over - that her beauty meant that she was very much alive: "Wait, pretty butterfly. Ugliness is a kind of death. As long as I'm beautiful, I'm even more alive than the others"
  • the vain Cleo met with or was surrounded by various individuals during her wait, beginning at 5 pm with the fortune teller (from the title sequence), then a café visit at Bonne Santé (Good Health) with her loyal secretary/housekeeper Angèle (Dominique Davray) when she broke down after viewing her face through a fractured mirror - a symbol of her frazzled psyche: ("I might as well be dead already"), followed by shopping for a bonnet; after shopping, the two took a taxi back to her luxurious Paris studio apartment where she had a brief visit from her superficial lover-boyfriend José (José Luis de Villalonga)
  • during Cleo's music rehearsal with her pianist-composer Bob (Michel Legrand) and lyricist Plumitif (Serge Korber) in her apartment, the two joked around (by pretending to be doctors); she sang the torch song Sans Toi with great emotion - the song began with her using sheet music while accompanied on the piano by Bob, then shifted her perspective to a full-scale orchestral performance, as she sang with tears and the background turned black behind her, signifying her feelings of blackness, emptiness and death
  • afterwards, believing that her music producers weren't being emotionally supportive, she angrily dismissed her composer and lyricist, telling them that they weren't taking her seriously as an artist: "What's a song? How long can it last? You make me capricious! Nothing but a china doll! Revolutions with macabre words. You think I'll make a hit with that? You're trying to exploit me! Get out!? No, I'm getting out...It's over"; when called a "spoiled, self-pitying child," she responded: "Everyone spoils me, no one loves me"; Cleo donned a black dress, ripped off her wig, put on a black hat, and told her maid: "I want to be alone," and left her apartment
  • on the street near the Good Health Health Food store as she wandered about the streets of Paris, she looked into a store mirror with foreign writing and expressed her frustrations: "My unchanging doll's face, this ridiculous hat. I can't see my own fears. I always think everyone's looking at me, but I only look at myself. It wears me out"; to remain anonymous, she put on sunglasses and entered a cafe to order a brandy as she listened to other conversations; growing impatient, she soon entered back onto the exterior sidewalk, and from her own subjective and anxious POV, she thought that everyone was judging her and gazing at her
Cleo's Friend Dorothee - A Nude Model
"My body makes me happy, not proud"
  • she entered an artist's sculpture studio, where she visited with friend Dorothée (Dorothée Blank), a liberated and uninhibited model who was posing nude for a group of sculptors; Dorothee reacted to Cleo's fear of posing nude: ("I'd feel so exposed, afraid they'd find a fault") by endorsing her artistic profession: "My body makes me happy, not proud. They're looking at more than just me. A shape, an idea. It's as if I wasn't there. Like I was asleep. And I'm paid for it"
  • Dorothee's boyfriend Raoul (Raymond Cauchetier) projected a short silent comedy ("a film within a film") to cheer Cleo up; as she left the movie house, she dropped her purse on the pavement and broke her small mirror, causing her reflection to reveal her detached fragmentation and distortion; she believed it was a bad omen
Ending Sequence: Cleo's Chance Meeting With a Soldier on Leave
  • by the end of the film, Cleo had changed from her polka-dot dress and discarded her fluffy wig, and was wearing only a plain black dress; the ending sequence began in the calm setting of the 14th arrondissement's Parc de Montsouris - she had a chance meeting with Antoine (Antoine Bourseiller), an on-leave soldier from the Algerian War who formed an understanding of trust with Cleo; she honestly revealed that her real name was Florence although she was called Cleo: ("I'm called Cléo, short for Cleopatra"); Antoine responded: "What a name! Florence. It conjures up thoughts of Italy, the Renaissance, Botticelli, a rose. Cleopatra! Egypt, the Sphinx, the asp, a tigress. I prefer Florence"
  • with kindness, Antoine observed her as a whole, unobjectified, and unspoiled person and she was transformed and empowered; he comfortingly agreed to accompany her to get her test results if she would later see him off at the train station
  • test results were that Cleo required two months of chemotherapy; as they parted, the two spoke the final two lines of dialogue: Antoine: "I'm sorry I'm leaving. I'd like to be with you." Cleo: "You are. I think my fear is gone. I think I'm happy"; she realized that her selfish problems or issues in life were minor compared to many others, and found peace for herself

Hangman's Tarot Card of Death

Cleo in Cafe: "I might as well be dead already"

Cleo's Break-down in Cafe

In Her Parisian Studio Apartment, With Her Suave Boyfriend Jose

Cleo's Music Rehearsal With Her Composer and Lyricist in Her Apartment

Cleo Donned a Black Dress and Ripped Off Her Wig Before Leaving Her Apartment

"I only look at myself. It wears me out"

The Many Mirrors and Crowds Surrounding Cleo - From Her POV - As She Wandered Around Paris


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