Beautiful Music: Michel Legrand and Agnès Varda’s “Cléo from 5 to 7”

Agnés Varda’s second feature film (Cléo from 5 to 7 (1961) opens starkly, sans any musical overture, with an overhead shot of a tarot reading taking place. Two women are heard discussing the cards. A young woman, the eponymous Cléo (Corinne Marchand), chooses nine tarot cards—three to indicate the past, three for the present, three for the future. The reading does not bode well, and Cléo is told by the fortune teller that she has no hope of marriage, a grim fate indeed for a young woman in this time and place. A second tarot reading comes with a confession from Cléo that she is very ill. Cléo then gives her palm to the fortune teller to read and the fortune teller appears deeply concerned by what she divines and suddenly withdraws from the reading, announcing fearfully that she cannot read palms. As a sobbing Cléo leaves the fortune teller’s room the latter confides to a man who appears to be listening in, informing him matter-of-factly, “She is doomed.”

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