Cleo From 5 to 7

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(1962, directed by Agnès Varda)

- inducted 2015 –

"It's bad enough that the tarot reader implies that young singer Cleo Victoire is going to die of cancer. Then on a commiserative shopping trip, her maid says she's overreacting, and chides her for buying a black hat in summertime. Right from the start, Cleo's life is being prescribed for her by seemingly arbitrary rules. She mopes, sitting on a swing in her apartment like a canary in a cage, waiting for her older record producer boyfriend to barely pass through. He too thinks her illness is simple hysteria. The songwriters come by for a rehearsal, make fun of her by calling her 'Cleopatra" and accuse her of youthful caprice when she doesn't want to sing what they've written. Finally she turns to the camera and belts out a song called 'Without You':

Gnawed away by despair
My body decays
On a crystal bier

"The film is propelled by the push-pull between Cleo's self-absorption (she constantly seeks out her reflection and fears not so much death but becoming old and supposedly losing her beauty) and the role that the world has set for her. Both of these are traps, versions of the glass tomb from her song. She visits an art class where her friend is a nude model for a room full of male sculptors, literally creating blank ideas of women. But her friend says her body makes her happy instead of prideful. Cleo meets a soldier, Antoine, on leave from fighting in Algeria. He tells her that where he's been, people die for nothing, and suddenly Cleo can step outside herself. This women, who has allowed herself to be ruled and emotionally closed-off by everyone's perceptions of her, finally unlocks some perspective

"The great Agnes Varda's roots as a photojournalist and documentarian allow her to layer this story into a backdrop of quotidian beauty. Cleo's journey through the streets of Paris is a stream of jump cuts and micro-vignettes: faces outside a cafe, street performers, a simple cab ride, with the occasional intrusion of the news from the Algerian front or of some local politics. The outside world penetrating our own insular one, shocking Cleo, and us, into empathy."

~ Matt Lynch

Original title: Cléo de 5 à 7
Principal cast: Corinne Marchand, Antoine Bouseiller, Dominique Davray, Dorothée Blank, Michel Legrand, José Luis de Vilallonga, Loye Payen, Renée Duchateau, Lucienne Marchand, Serge Korber, Robert Postec, featuring uncredited appearances by Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina, Jean-Claude Brialy, Eddie Constantine, Sami Frey
Screenplay by: Agnès Varda
Produced by: Georges de Beauregard, Carlo Ponti
Cinematography by: Paul Bonis, Alain Levent, Jean Rabier
Production design by: Jean-François Adam, Bernard Evein (art direction)
Costume design by: Alyette Samazeuilh
Film editing by: Pascal Laverrière, Jeanne Verneau
Music by: Michel Legrand
Makeup artist: Aida Carange
Sound by: Julie Coutelier, Jean Labussière, Jacques Maumont (sound re-recording muxer)

France/Italy
Duration: 90 minutes
Languages: French
Filmed in black and white with color sequences
Sound mix: Mono
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1, with some scenes in 1.19:1
Printed film format: 35mm

Produced by Ciné Tamaris and Rome Paris Films
Released in USA by Zenith International Films
Premiered in France on 11 April 1962
USA release date: 4 September 1962

Awards and honors:
- Cannes Film Festival, 1962: Palme d’Or (nominated)