The Thinking Machine 20

A Carnival of Souls

Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López reflect on the art of filmmaking in monthly video essays.

Cléo from 5 to 7 by Agnès Varda and Strop (Ceiling) by Vera Chytilová were both made in 1962; the former is very well-known, the latter far less so. Film history does not tell us whether these filmmakers were aware of each other’s works at the time. All conscious intention and influence aside, the films entertain uncanny affinities. Both make highly experimental use of music, editing, and narrative arrangement; both progressively move from an initially light, breezy view of a celebrity milieu (fashion, pop music) to a darker, more internal portrait of a woman’s agonies and doubts. Our audiovisual essay looks at how the films depict women who are ‘on show’ but slowly recover their own gaze; and how the films explore the world of feminine ‘beauty’. Both these movies still seem, today, at the vanguard of women’s cinema.