Your Daily Short: Agnès Varda's 'Les Fiancés Du Pont Macdonald' (1962)

Welcome to Your Daily Short, a new feature on that will highlight and stream a short film at high noon. Every weekday. Every week. Or so we try.

THE FILM: “Les Fiancés Du Pont Macdonald" (or "Méfiez-vous Des Lunettes Noires") by Agnès Varda


The year is 1962, and Agnès Varda is worried that her movie about a young woman waiting to learn whether or not she has terminal cancer is just a touch too grim. The iconic director is concerned that the film's real-time conceit, which forces viewers to spend nearly two uninterrupted hours with the heroine as she experiences an existential crisis while confronting her own mortality, isn't making for a good time at the cinema. But then, a brilliant solution: when the protagonist goes to kill some time at a local cinema, why not have her watch something goofy and lighthearted, a simple entertainment that's just perverse enough to invite darker interpretations?

And so, Varda incepted her most famous film, cutting a short film of her own design into the middle of "Cléo from 5 to 7". Ostensibly a tribute to the antics of Buster Keaton, the silent short that Cléo sees is a fun bit of frippery loaded with easy laughs and populated with über-famous faces that were intended to quell the suspense of the feature film with a jolt of self-reflexivty. "Les Fiancés du Pont Macdonald" (a bluntly descriptive title that's much less fun than the alternate option, "Beware of Dark Sunglasses") is a simple romance about a man (Jean-Luc Godard) and his paramour (Anna Karina, natch) who are parting for the afternoon on a Parisian bridge. But when the man dons his dark sunglasses – an obvious joke at the expense of Godard's image – the whole world is flipped and inverted. Right becomes left, light becomes dark, white becomes black (the racial element is somewhat uncomfortable, but certainly feels true to the silent cinema that Varda is lovingly lampooning).

Goodbye is never goodbye, and every mix-up can ultimately resolved. Cléo couldn't have asked for a better diversion.

"Les Fiancés du Pont Macdonald" can also be found on The Criterion Collection's DVD of "Cléo from 5 to 7".