Cleo 5 to 7, Agnes Varda’s classic work of 1962 depicts, in near real time, ninety minutes in the life of Cleo. She is a French singer who anxiously awaits test results from her doctor. Fearing the worst, she spends two hours cruising the streets of Paris. She allows her fears to overcome her. The two hours show every detail of emotion and movement that she experiences. She has several encounters that propel her to take stock of her own existence. Eventually, her illness helps her discover the beauty of time and its power to create and destroy. She discovers how permanence is an illusion.
Time is an important subject in Cleo from 5 to 7. The film is depicted through the real clock time, passing second by second. The end of real time marks Cleo getting the news from her doctor. Very casually he informs her that two months of chemotherapy will make her alright. That marked the end of anticipation. The film has elements of apprehension and desire. Because of its real-time structure, Cleo 5 to 7 transforms what, in almost any other film background, would be monotonous, or at least average, into drama. And, in doing so, it transforms Cleo herself from a distracted, self-obsessed entertainer into someone whose fate we fix on and care about. The film handles several of themes including discussions of mortality, the idea of despair, and leading a meaningful life.