film analysis/ discussion/ 2 complete paragraph/ film101


You do not need to respond to all the readings for a given class, as long as your comments reveal a strong and in-depth reading of one of the texts. Commenting on two texts for a particular class is considered one post.In approximately two paragraphs, cover some of the following:What is the main or central argument?How does the author make this argument? (Working through specific examples, and/or other authors and their terms and concepts?)What are the key terms, concepts, or distinctions used in this argument?In what ways is/are the argument/s or particular claim/s surprising, counterintuitive, or perhaps even problematic?How might we see parallels to contemporary examples or issues?In what ways might the author’s claims require a reexamination or response?film: Cleo from 5 to 7 / Cléo de 5 à 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962), 90 min.The Circle / Dayereh (Jafar Panahi, 2000), 90 min.
2 complete paragraph (400-500)

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University of Texas Press
Society for Cinema & Media Studies
From Feminine Masquerade to Flâneuse: Agnès Varda’s Cléo in the City
Author(s): Janice Mouton
Source: Cinema Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Winter, 2001), pp. 3-16
Published by: University of Texas Press on behalf of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies
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FromFeminine Masqueradeto FlIneuse:
Agnes Varda’sCleo in the City
by Janice Mouton
In Agnes Varda’sCl6o from 5 to 7 (1961), the protagonist’stransformationfrom
feminine masqueradetofladneuseoccurs as a result of her involvement with a city,
specifically Paris. Positing the possibility of afemale flanerie, this essay establishes
a connectionbetweenAgnes Vardaand the writers George Sandand VirginiaWoolf,
thereby showing how a woman walker-a flaneuse-lays claim to subjectivity.
Among the pleasures of viewing Cldofrom 5 to 7 (1961) are the scenic views of
Paris. As we see Clio walking through the city’s “sensory streets,”‘ vital and dynamic with their mix of people, newsstands and bookstalls, trees and flowers, bicycles, cars, and buses, dogs and pigeons, shops and caf6s, our attention is focused
on the city as much as on the woman. Looking at how filmmaker Agnes Varda
looks at Paris, and looking at Clio learning to look, is an extraordinaryexperience
with regardto both city viewing and filmviewing.What makes Cl o’s walk so fascinating is the transformationshe undergoes, brought about by her interaction with
the city during an afternoon of flanerie. The idea of transformationis first introduced by a tarot reader,whom Clio visits in the opening scene, when she is seeking assurancethat an illness she has will not prove fatal. The fortune teller cannot
give her this assurance;however, her prophecy that Clio will undergo a “profound
transformationof her being” becomes the focus of the film. Thus, Cl o, who initiallyis so self-involved and preoccupied with her fetishized image that she is blind
to her city surroundings, gradually learns to open her eyes and look and allows
what she sees to transformher.
“As Long as I’m Beautiful, I’m Alive.” We become acquaintedwith Clio,
Varda’s”clich6-woman”2or, as my title indicates, an example of feminine masquerade during the initial sequences of the film. The striking artificiality and
constructedness of Cl o’s look-her blonde wig, meticulous makeup, fifties
“Maidenform”contour, and showy high heels-raise immediate questions about
why she presents herself in this manner. Who is she masquerading for? What is
behind the mask?What is Clio attempting to hide?
The emphaticallyfragmented style of the introductoryscene, with its repeated
close-ups of women’s hands accompanied by disembodied women’s voices, has an
unsettling effect, suggesting that there is more to Cl o’s masquerade than simple
JaniceMoutonis an associateprofessorat LoyolaUniversity,
Chicago,whereshe teachesin
the Departmentof ModernLanguagesandLiteratureandin theWomen’sStudiesProgram.
GermanLiteratureand Culture.
? 2001 by the Universityof TexasPress,P.O.Box 7819,Austin,TX78713-7819
CinemaJournal 40, No. 2, Winter 2001

Figure 1. Cl6o (Corinne Marchand)dons the masquerade.CourtesyThe Museum
of Modern Art, New York.
acquiescence to stereotypical notions of femininity. The use of this fragmentary
style continues as Cl6o leaves the tarot reader’s apartment, disturbing us even
further. As she descends the stairs to the entryway,we see-edited together in
jump cuts-multiple exposures of a single medium close-up of Cl6o moving from
the top to the bottom of the frame.
The marked emphasis on segmentation and repetition is compounded in the
following scene, in which Cl6o’simage is reflected in multiple ways in the entryway
mirrors.A fragmented and adorned object, she is a substitute for something that is
both there and not there. She becomes the woman she is not-a fantasy,a fetishized
object, someone to be looked at, reassuringrather than dangerous. Whether consciously constructed to conform to the demands of masculine desire, Cl6o’s masquerade enables her to deceive and comfort herself that she is healthy and to deny
what she believes, given her symptoms and the prophecy of the fortune teller.
Cl6o’s consciousness is split into her knowing self and her denying self, corresponding, respectively, to her interior self, where the illness is a reality, and her
external self, whose beauty masks the illness. As Cl6o speaks to herself in the mirror, she is doubly fragmented. The flesh-and-blood Cl6o speaks to her mirrorimage Cl6o, her denying self to her knowing self: “Being ugly,that’swhat death is. As
long as I’m beautiful, I’m alive.”3
Cinema Journal 40, No. 2, Winter 2001
In her book Female Perversions,psychoanalystLouise Kaplanwrites that “perversion is a mental strategythat uses one or another social stereotype of masculinity or femininityin a way that deceives the onlookeraboutthe unconsciousmeanings
of the behaviors she or he is observing.”4 C16o’sattempt to deceive herself as well
as others by turning herself into a fetish is an unmistakableinstance of the problem as Kaplandefines it: women perform impersonations of femininity (i.e., they
fetishize themselves) as a strategy to disguise desires that are forbidden them by
the social order of gender stereotypes. In Cl6o’s case, this impersonation enables
her to deny responsibility both for her exterior self, which is an impersonation,
and for her interior self, as the location of her illness.
In a much earlier (1929) study of the feminine masquerade,Joan Riviere analyzed what she termed the “masqueradeof womanliness.”She examined the cases
of several women who assumed and wore their womanliness as masks. Riviere
makes clear that there is no difference between genuine womanliness and masquerade: “They are the same thing.”5MaryAnn Doane rephrases the idea in her
widely read “Film and the Masquerade,””Masquerade… constitutes an acknowledgment that it is femininity itself which is constructed as mask-as the decorative layer which conceals a non-identity.”6
This brings us to the central focus of Varda’sfilm: Cl6o’s move from a position
of masquerade and nonidentity to subjectivity.Whether Cl o adopts this masquerade because she is a performer by profession and feels that she is thus pleasing her audience, or whether she does it for the benefit of her some-time lover,
Jos6, or, finally,whether Varda’scinema has created this fetishized image of woman
in order to deconstruct it as the film progresses, Cl6o’slook reflects Riviere’sthesis
that femininity is itself a masquerade.
The nonidentity that masquerade disguises is depicted throughout the first
part of the film, during which images of Cl6o’s body as fragmented abound. A
series of these images culminate in a powerful shot of a mirrorshard that reflects
a single gazing eye. Furthermore, Cl6o makes pointed verbal references to the
notion of the disunifiedbody.For one example,she confesses to her friend Doroth e
that she is glad that her illness-a stomach ailment-is “outof sight,”accentuating
the existence of the interior/exteriorsplit. Another time, when Cl o removes her
wig, she says that she wishes she could tear off her head as well. Paradoxically,
Cl o is caught between a fear of death and a death wish.
In addition to her fear of death, Cleo is consumed by a fear of mutilation (including a fear of surgery)and horrifiedat the thought of her perfect fetishized body
being desecrated.When she looks in a caf6 mirror,for instance, and its seam bisects
her face, she franticallyaltersher positionto restoreher wholeness. Later,she watches
a street performerwhose stunt consists of thrustinga saber through an opening in
his arm;her expressionof extreme horrorrevealsher vulnerabilitywhen confronted
with any form of desecration.Her intact, fetishized beauty-her feminine masquerade-assures her that she is healthy and alive and wardsoff her anxietyabout being
fragmented and mutilated and her dread of annihilationand nothingness.
Cleo seeks to fend off her anxiety and despair by escaping into a world of
beautiful objects, where fetishized commodities can substitute for feelings and
CinemaJournal 40, No. 2, Winter 2001
persons. In the hat shop scene, for example, Cl6o creates a spectacle for Angele,
her companion/maid, for the saleswoman, and for herself as she tries on hats bedecked with feathers, fur, sequins, and veils, reflected on mirrorsurfaces and displayed through plate-glass windows. Assuring herself that “everythingsuits me,”
she purchases a fur hat as if she could assuage her fears and meet her needs with
such a maladjustedsubstitution. But this example of commodity fetishism in the
Marxist sense tells only half the story. The objects Cl6o desires also adorn her
body, transformingher into a fetishized object. Here fetishism and feminine masquerade converge.
Vardamakes an explicit visual reference to Cleo’s masquerade during her cab
ride from the hat shop to her apartment.After several shots of Parisiancityscape,
we suddenly pass two art galleries whose windows display African tribal masks.
With their prominent eyes and mouths (one in particularwith abundantstrawlike
hair is shown in close-up), these striking masks are also fetishes. Once, in their
originalcontext, they represented elements in a belief system; now, like Cleo, they
are simply objects on display-beautiful but devoid of a life or meaning on their
own. Clo, not yet having begun her process of transformation,does not see the
masks. Varda,however, like the tarot reader, foretells the future.
Once Clio returns home, we see that the domestic space she inhabits replicates and complements her masquerade of femininity. The tall, blonde, beautifully turned-out Clo is very much at home in her high-ceilinged, bright, beautiful
white room. Her image, conspicuously fashioned to attractthe desiring gaze of her
male audience, is reflected in one mirror after another as she moves about the
room-allowing her form to play over the framed surfaces-shiny, empty, and
waiting. Clo, who in many ways is a child, a kitten, and a toy, finds her maid
pampering and infantilizingher counterparts,playingwith Cleo’s cute, cuddly kittens. Cleo, the fetishized woman, in feathers and furs, wig, and jewels, is one with
the room, which likewise is bedecked in fur and jewels, flowers, and ornate decorative objects. Not only is the room presented as a mirrorimage of Clo, but both
the room and the bed provide stage space for Cl o’s performance of her invented
persona with Jos6, her would-be lover; the musicians with whom she sings; the
ever-admiringAngele, representing her audience; and of course, Cl6o herselfher own best audience.7
At the precise moment of her epiphany,as Cl6o sings the Cri d’Amour,identifying with the song’s lyrics and seeing herself as “alone, ugly, and pale,” both
camera and music move in boldly and dramatically.The scene continues outside
the room, visuallyand audiblyburstingout of the space identified with the fantasy
woman who lives within it.”At this moment of insight, when Clo recognizes that
her femininity is indeed a masquerade, she literally propels herself out of herself-out of the false identity she has constructed and out of the room designed to
reflect that identity-into a new world where her transformationbegins.
Flaneuristic Forebears: George Sand and VirginiaWoolf. Whenthe camera returns to the room, it focuses on a different Clio. She signals this difference
visually by tearing off her wig and feathered robe and donning a simple black
No. 2, Winter 2001
dress. When she enters the street, her expression tells us she refuses to engage in
the masquerade of feminine spectacle and is taking on a new role of participantobserver in the city.
Cleo embarks on a journey-by foot, in the city streets-during the course of
which she takes on an identity so rare for women in Western culture that its feminine form, “flaneuse,” is rarely mentioned. An earlier incarnation was George Sand,
who in 1831 made her way through Paris streets taking pleasure in the sights and
in her freedom, but, as we know, she had to do this dressed as a man. Sand writes:
I had a “sentrybox redingote”made for myself out of thick gray cloth, pants and vest to
match. With a grayhat and wide wool tie, I was a perfect first-yearstudent. I cannot tell
you the pleasure my boots gave me: I would gladly have slept in them…. With those
little iron-shod heels, I was secure on the sidewalk.I flew from one end of Paris to the
other. It seemed to me that I could go round the world…. No one paid attention to me,
and no one guessed at my disguise…. No one knew me, no one looked at me, no one
found fault with me; I was an atom lost in that immense crowd.9
Janet Wolff says about this passage that the “disguise made the life of the flaneur
available to her; as [Sand] knew very well, she could not adopt the non-existent
role of a flineuse. Women could not stroll alone in the city.”‘0
Another forebear of the flaneuse is the narrator of Virginia Woolf’s essay “Street
Haunting,” rambles through London’s streets with the eye and mind of the true
flineuse. She is forced to stop just short of claiming full possession of that designation, however, since in 1927 a woman still needed an excuse for walking the streets
alone. She could go for a stroll as long as she had a ready justification: “Really I
must buy a pencil.””‘ Thus, purchasing a lead pencil became her pretext.
Walter Benjamin’s flineur, who “goes botanizing on the asphalt,” comes immediately to mind as we read Woolf’s account of street rambling.”2 That fellow,
who though seemingly indolent is actually watchful, lets everything pass in review.
For Woolf’s flineuse, there is a seeming discrepancy between appearance and
reality, between seeing and knowing. In “Street Haunting” as well as in her essay
on the cinema,’3 Virginia Woolf is particularly interested in the relation between
the eye, which glides smoothly over the surface and “licks it all up instantly,”‘4 and
the brain, which “resting, pausing, perhaps sleeps as the eye looks.”‘5 Yet, when
the eye “wants help” and calls, “You are needed,”’16 the brain is ready. In fact, it is
“in danger of digging deeper than the eye approves,”” so that, lost in thought, the
flineuse fails to see what was before her eyes. Soon, however, the eye and the
mind function in perfect harmony, taking in images and reflecting on them, both
observing a world and imagining a world. Woolf writes:
Passing,glimpsing,everythingseems accidentallybut miraculouslysprinkledwith beauty,
as if the tide of trade which deposits its burden so punctuallyand prosaicallyupon the
shores of OxfordStreet had this night cast up nothing but treasure.With no thought of
buying,the eye is sportiveand generous;it creates;it adorns;it enhances. Standingout in
the street, one may build up all the chambersof an imaginaryhouse and furnishthem at
one’s will with sofa, table, carpet…. But, having built and furnished the house, one is
happilyunder no obligationto possess it; one can dismantleit in the twinklingof an eye.’8
Cinema Journal 40, No. 2, Winter 2001
As will be discussed in detail below, Varda,in her writing and throughout Cldo
from 5 to 7, thematizes the essential connection between looking and knowing as
it applies both to flanerie and to film spectatorship.
Yet despite these illustriouspredecessors, the notion of the flaneuse remains
questionable to this day.Aimless strolling, “streetwalking”per se, still conjures up
connotations of prostitution, although it fits the definition of flanerie precisely. It
is carried out on foot (not in a motor car)’9on a city sidewalk (not in a shopping
mall, a safe, predictable environment where the would-be flaneuse finds no risk,
no challenge, no adventure-and no possibilityof transformation);it proceeds at a
leisurely pace (though not necessarily in the company of a pet turtle, reputedly the
custom of the nineteenth-century Parisianflaneur,who took a turtle strollingwith
him in the arcades, allowing the animal to set the pace); it is aimless (not motivated towarda goal, as in shopping-except perhaps for a lead pencil)20; it involves
looking (not “auralflanerie” as in station switching on the radio dial),2″and the
walker strolls alone. When all these qualities are present, the rambling, streethaunting flaneur/flaneuseis in a position to experience the shock (Benjamin), the
distraction (Kracauer),”and the adventure (Woolf) of the life of the city and to
process it in the mind as Denkbilder (thought images).23
Remarkably,Clo is in this positionwhen, propelled by the shock of self-knowledge that overwhelms her while singing the Cri d’Amour, she leaves her narrow,
self-mirroring room for the open, inviting street. The changes she makes in her
appearanceare significant. George Sand assumed the disguise of a man to become
a flaneur, Cleo removes the disguise of a spectacle woman to become a woman
walker. In both cases, the purpose is the same: to look without being looked at.
That Clo has “nothought of buying”(Woolf) is also crucial to her transformation.
She no longer needs the “fix”of the earlier hat-shoppingscene, or of the fetishized
identity that she is now in the process of shedding.
The life of the street-its risks, surprises, and endless variety-carries with it
the transformativeforce. Thus, the woman shopper can never be identified with
the authentic flaneuse, or the shopping mall with the street. In her provocative
book Window Shopping, Anne Friedberg attempts to do just this, going so far as
to elevate shopping to the realm of “philosophicalspeculation”by claiming that to
“shop is to muse in the contemplative mode, an activity that combines diversion,
self-gratification,expertise, and physical activity.”24
Although she insightfullycharacterizes the bag lady and the street person with a shopping cart as “direparod[ies]
of a consumer culture gone awry,”25
Friedberg seems not to recognize commodity
fetishism as the far more dangerousand pervasiveperversionassociatedwith shopping in modern society. Because Vardadoes recognize this, Cleo as fetish woman
goes shopping while Cleo as flaneuse haunts the streets.
One way of thinkingabout Cleo’s process of transformationis to chart it on a
trajectoryfrom fear to curiosity.When the spectacle woman, who has alwaysbeen
only looked at, claims the right to look for herself, she experiences a form of transgression.This is hardlysurprisinggiven our mythsof origin,which teach that female
curiosity-the desire to look and to know-is transgressiveand dangerous.We have
only to recall the figures of Eve, Pandora,or Bluebeard’swives, all alluded to by
CinemaJournal40o, No. 2, Winter 2001
to recognizehow this ingrainedpatternof
LauraMulveyin her essay”Pandora,”
Howtabooshas markedthe desiresandanxietiesof womenin Westernsociety.26
Beyondthe connectionbetweenlookingandknowing,thereis the important
relationshipbetweenthe one wholooksandwhatis seen andknown.As Raymond
Williamswritesin TheCountryand the City,
is notonlya function
of objects-ofwhatis thereto be known.It is
Whatis knowable
it is the
Andwhatwe havethento see…isnotonlythe realityof the…community;
whichis partof thecommunity
sortof constellation,she
Clio has all of Parisbeforeher,and,in a figure/ground
unaware,now,as she
looks,muses,andrespondsto the city,she becomesbothan observerof the crowd
of herbeing”unfoldsbeforeus.
anda partof it. Thus,the “profound
A WomanWalkerin the City.Oneof the strengthsandbeautiesof AgnesVarda’s
filmmakingis that she selects her city locationswith great care and precision. The
all of her filmswhethertheywere shot on her
use of specificlocalescharacterizes
own Paris street, the rue Daguerre in the fourteenth arrondissement(Daguerreo-
types,1975);in the streetsandstudiosof late-1960sHollywood(Lion’sLove,1969);
or during a harshlybeautiful winter in the Languedoc (Sans toit ni loi/Vagabond,
1985). In this regard,her oeuvre is distinct from the mass of contemporarymovies
whose cine-city settings displaya “ubiquitousplacelessness.””28In Cldofrom 5 to 7,
each of Varda’sParis locations expresses a rich character of its own and invites
flinerie:theruede Rivoli,thebusyshoppingstreet;therueHuyghensinCleo’sneighwhereallof Parispasses
borhood;thecaf6le D6me,ontheboulevardMontparnasse,
As objectof the gaze,Cleo maybe unpracticedin the artof looking,but she
suffersneitherfroma misconceivedsense of autonomynorthe delusionthather
standpointas subjectis the centerof the world,as in Sartre’ssense of a “subject
residingat the still pointof the turningworld,masterof its prospects,sovereign
surveyorof the scene.”29In becominga flaneuse,Clio does not assumethe power
of a gazingsubjectentrappinga differentotheras object.Rather,she breaksout of
thisstructure.Thecitystreetthusbecomesa newstructuring
herandthosearoundherto participatein analternativemodelof spectatorship
definedby a strictsubject/object
dichotomy. flaneuse, joins
NormanBryson,”the[flaneuse]cannotbe saidto enjoyindependentself-existence,”
since”thegroundof [her]beingis the existenceof everythingelse.”30
SinceCleohasalwaysexperiencedherselfas fragmented,she is not shockedto
findthatthe cityalsoconsistsof fragments.Herprocessof transformation
is echoed
by city’s
expectationfor the woman or for the city of arrivingat a fixed identity.
CinemaJournal 40, No. 2, Winter 2001
That the city forms personalityis anythingbut a new idea. Aristotle expressed
it most succinctly by claiming, “Outside the polis no one is truly human,” and
Bertolt Brecht once said, “EinMann ist kein Mann”(One man is not a man). In his
classic text The City in History, Lewis Mumford demonstrates that personality
first emerged in the city3”;before the development of the city, in the fourth millennium B.C., there was only a village sense of collectivity. According to Mumford,
the new esthetic structures of the city-the wall, the temple, the palace, the marketplace-enabled the individualinhabitantto “identifyhimself with the personality of the city.””2In fact, he credits the city with having as one of its principal
functions “the making and remakingof selves.”33
If this is the case for the whole of recorded history, it is just as true in the
world of fictional literature. From the familiarstories of the Greeks and the connections their literarycharactershave to their cities-Troy, Athens, Corinth-up
to the nineteenth-century work of Dickens and Baudelaire and on to twentiethcenturywriting-for exampleJoyce’sUlyssesand D6blin’sBerlin Alexanderplatzthe character-formingnature of the city is plain to see. By focusing on the Sand/
WoolfNarda tradition,I mean to show that women artistsalso recognize the city as
important in forming a woman’spersonality.
Although the street provides the primaryspace for flaneuristicwalking (“Life
in all its variety and inexhaustible wealth of variations thrives among the gray
cobblestones,” says Benjamin),34newsstands, caf6s, bookstores, and movie theaters, connected as they are to the street-actually extensions of it-also beckon
the flaneur/flaneuse.35
One remarkable scene in Cldofrom 5 to 7 makes clear the tie between the
the woman in her ongoing process of transformation:when Cleo enters
the Montparnasse caf6 le D6me in her new role of flaneuse, she notices everything in this rich sidewalk caf6: posters on the bulletin board, paintings on the
walls, tables, chairs, a pinball machine, a jukebox, a newspaper rack. She seats
herself momentarily at a small table, positioned next to a floor-to-ceiling column covered in mirror mosaics, a mirrored surface into which, for the first time,
Cleo does not look. In becoming part of the caf6 world, she ceases to be a spectacle on display, for herself or for anyone else. Next to her, the multifaceted
surface mirrors her image and the images of the caf6’s interior in an infinitely
fragmented pattern.
As fragments of Cleo’s image and fragments of other objects-people and
things, light and movement-come together to form a new, complex pattern,
Cleo indeed becomes the figure “the ground of [whose] being is the existence of
everything else.”36
When Clio gets up from her table and continues her stroll through the caf6,
the mirroredfragments materializebefore her eyes into various distinct and individual people. She continues her observationsinside and out, even makingthem a
kind of test. She plays a song on the jukebox that she has recorded and for which
she is well known, La Capricieuse, and watches to see how people respond. Quite
simply, they don’t. They continue their typical caf6 activities-reading, smoking,
looking about, conversing, drinking, coming and going. Clio is lost in the crowd.
CinemaJournal 40, No. 2, Winter 2001
Like George Sand and VirginiaWoolf’s narratorbefore her, she is on her own two
feet, using her own two eyes to observe the city and become part of it.
Varda’s Mental Movie Theater. The caf6sequenceis an especiallystrikingexample of Varda’scinicriture, a word she coined to convey the notion of “cinematic
writing.”Vardapoints out that what the cinema has to deal with is a way of narrating: “Not illustratinga screenplay, not adapting a novel…. I have fought so much
since I started … for something that comes from emotion, from visual emotion,
sound emotion, feeling, and finding a shape for that, and a shape which has to do
with cinema and nothing else.”37What Vardapresents in the caf6 scene is nothing
less than a total visual, aural,and imaginativerealizationof film as textual process.
She gives shape to the “visualemotion, sound emotion, feeling” of Clho’stransformation as she responds to the sights and sounds of the caf6. The director uses this
technique throughout the second half of the film. The city yields up its myriad
fragments, and Clho, in observing them and becoming part of them, incorporates
them as she becomes transformedfrom spectacle and fetishized object into a subject who looks, a flaneuse. Varda’sinclusion of the column with its multifaceted
mirror surface-independent presence and representation of the whole-is an
especially brilliant conception, since it encapsulates in one stunning visual image
the story of the film and its narrativeprocess.
Virginia Woolf has written of the resemblance between bookstore browsing
and street haunting-books on the shelf of a secondhand bookshop are like crowds
on the sidewalk. While browsing the shelves, “One is forced to glimpse and nod
and move on after a moment of talk, a flash of understanding, as, in the street
outside, one catches a word in passing and from a chance phrase fabricates a
lifetime.”38The interaction, charged by that “flash of understanding,” between
book and browser, street and stroller, in both cases brings life to the encounter.
Varda reveals a similar connection between the processes of film viewing and
flanerie. We feel a sense of expectation as Cleo, changed by what she saw in the
caf6, begins to stroll the city street. A rush of images, snatches from the life of
the city, meets her eye: the street, the sidewalk, the storefronts, the shopkeepers
and shoppers, the browsers and passersby. The soundtrack, too, signals change.
Earlier Cleo actually walked (i.e., her high heels clicked) to the rhythm of one of
her songs playing in her head; now her footsteps become part of the rich mix of
ambient sound that complements the sights surrounding her. As Cleo walks, listens, and looks-selectively, furtively even, still fearful but with her curiosity
awakened-her “mind’seye” suddenly begins to intercut memory material with
present perceptions. This, Vardaexplains, is what cinema is all about:
Images,sound,whatever,arewhatwe use to constructa waywhichis cinema,whichis
supposedto produceeffects,not onlyin oureyes andears,but in our”mental”
theaterin whichimageandsoundalreadyarethere.Thereis a kindof ongoingmovie
all the time,in whichthe moviethatwe see comesin andmixes,andthe perceptionof
alltheseimagesandsoundproposedto us…pilesup in ourmemorywithotherimages,
of images.39
CinemaJournal 40, No. 2, Winter 2001
By this point, the viewer shares Cl6o’s memories, and we are privy to her
“mental movie theater” as Varda intercuts city-street images with images from
other contexts: Angele posed on Clo’s loveseat and Jos6 seated on Cleo’s bed,
both gazing at her. Suddenly the face of the tarot reader appears, followed by the
likeness of a man Cl6o saw at the caf6 engrossed in reading his newspaper.With
Clo we re-view the image of her wig hanging on the mirrorwhere she left it, a
visual encapsulationof the existence she just fled. The picture of her clock and the
sound of its continuing tick on the soundtrackremind her, and us, of the passage of
time and of its limitedness. Finally, we see a shot of a frog swallower she saw
perform-a grotesque,nightmarishstand-infor Clo herself, a performerand object
of everyone’s gaze. Like the African masks, the frog man reflects in an escalated,
literalway an aspect of Cl6o’smasquerade,which she is now,with difficulty,beginning to drop. With these multiple images, Vardarenders visually what Woolf described as the harmoniousfunctioning of eye and mind-a cinematic presentation
of the processing of flineuristic Denkbilder.
By now, Clo has begun to be part of the city. Her presence in the caf6 and in
the street, her walking,looking,listening, and musing, compose a part of the whole.
While she does not yet have the sense that the street “belongs”to her, certainlythe
pleasure of the moment c

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