1960 Academy Award Winner and winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, Marcel Camus' Black Orpheus retells the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice against the madness of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. With it... more »s magnificent color photography and lively soundtrack, this film brought the infectious bossa nova beat to the United States. Criterion is proud to present the extended international version of Black Orpheus in a gorgeous new transfer.« less
"Do they clean the streets in Rio De Janeiro? Well, of course they do. When this carnival is over.
And if you watch this movie you will see that they do it very near the end of the last reel, as in the morning when the truck comes round spraying water, just one of a thousand little details that director Marcel Camus got right, and one of the most insignificant. But it is from a multiplicity of detail that an edifice of cinematic genius is constructed.
The true brilliance of Black Orpheus lies in the people who live on the side of the cliffs overlooking the harbor at Rio. It is their energy that prevails. Then there is the color, the costumes, the pounding rhythms, the spectacular vitality of life that is depicted as a carnival of dance and song in which we are driven along as on a wave. And yet there is the constant reality of death. And it strikes in ways we cannot comprehend, fatalistically, and we are helpless to do anything about it. And then Orpheus sings, a new Orpheus perhaps, and the sun rises again, and a little girl in white, looking like Eurydice in miniature, begins to dance as the little boy Orpheus plays his guitar, telling us that time has come round again.
Well, that's the plot as adapted by screen writer Jacques Voit from the play by Vinicius d Moraes as divined from the Greek mythology. Supporting this arresting conception is the music by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfa. I recall the former as the composer of bossanova who gave us "The Girl from Ipanema" and made the samba international. Starring in the title role as the streetcar conductor who is loved by all is Breno Melo, who might be seen as the natural man and native of paradise. The very pretty Marpessa Dawn plays Eurydice, an innocent from the country who falls in love with Orpheus and his song. Lourdes de Oliveira plays his intended, Mira who is hot blooded, vital and beautifully ordinary. But the actress I recall most vividly from the time I first saw this in the sixties was Léa Garcia who played Serafina. Her exuberance and comedic flair struck me as something completely different from anybody I had ever seen before. And then there are the boys who follow Orpheus around and emulate his every move. With their torn shirts and unflagging optimism, they represent the new day that will dawn.
If you haven't seen this strange and beautiful film, you are in for a singular experience. There is nothing else like it that I know of. And it is as fresh today as when it was made almost half a century ago."
Wonderful interpretation of the classic
R. Gawlitta | Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA | 10/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A lot of people were surprised when this won for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1959 Academy Awards. It hadn't been widely seen, except for winning at Cannes, it was a French director with a Portuguese-language film, with a black cast. (I've been to Rio and there's no racism, though some class-ism and other political nonsense). I saw this film in the 60's and loved it for its sincerity and profound lesson. I was in high school, and didn't really know much about the Orpheus legend. I was taken in by the narrative presented by Marcel Camus, and never forgot it. I subsequently visited Rio, and watching this film is most interesting, because it's about real people (not what the tourists see), but the exquisite photography not only shows vast vistas of Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches, but vivid colors, as well as how seriously the Cariocas regard "Carnaval". Bruno Mello (Orpheus) was a handsome soccer star, and a fine actor. Marpessa Dawn, as Eurydice, is really excellent (according to liner notes, she was from Pittsburgh). A real natural. An interesting thing to notice is that, even when looking though an open door, there are great shots of the beaches, Rio's finest feature. I also attended a Macumba ceremony while there, and the one depicted in the film let me know that mine wasn't a fake. Then there's the brilliant score by Jobim and Bonfa, which, by now, has become standard/classic. The music truly carries the film, the acting is first-rate, and the use of color by cinematographers Louis Stein & Rene Persin is breath-taking. This is indeed a great film with humor, a few scares, great love story, and just about everything anyone would want. The music alone will entertain; everything else is like a fine sauce over an excellent entree."
An Orpheus Oddessy
R. Gawlitta | 12/20/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A wonder-filled whirl of color and sound, this movie will provide a boost for the hopeless romantic. The never-ending love story of Orpheus and Eurydice is regenerated in "modern" Rio during Carnival. Beautifully photographed with an excellent sound track, this movie is a must-see for any serious film connoisseur.Links to the original Greek tragedy will test your knowledge of mythology and the trip to "Hades" with its voodoo incantations will stick in your mind like a fever-induced dream. The beauty and rhythm of this film will make you think of your first true love, and, if you're one of the lucky ones out there, make you glad you never let that person go.I first saw Black Orpheus in New Orleans. One of my life's fondest memories is viewing this film at a local repertory theater. Whenever there were carnival street scenes, balcony-bound moviegoers would let loose with Mardi Gras beads and doubloons, adding to the carnival atmosphere.Also, although I have a copy of the subtitled Orpheu Negro, which I would never part with, I have seen a dubbed version, only once and then on television. I would very much like to acquire a dubbed copy. Can anyone out there help? I remember there being much more to the story line revealed with the dubbed version. (For example, when at the pawn shop, as patrons are passing the guitar down to Orpheus, they are saying, "This is for Orpheus. This is for Orpheus." This phrase is transposed from person to person into "This is Orpheus. Here's Orpheus.", giving the guitar mystical properties and seeming to make it the embodiment of the spirit of Orpheus. Inscribed on the guitar are the words "Orpheus is my master."I would give this film my highest recommendation and would encourage anyone to view it at least one a email@example.com"
A classic of world cinema
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 12/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The classic film that brought Brazil's bossa nova music to the world outside, this was a wry modernist update of the classical Greek myth of Orpheus and Euridyce, the starcrossed lovers whose passion could not be denied, even by all the powers of Hell. The film is adapted from a bold stage play written by Brazilian poet Vinicius De Moraes, who enlisted a then-unknown Antonio Carlos Jobim to compose the classic bossa tunes that stud the films soundtrack. In this version, Hell is a blend of the futurist modernism that created Brasilia, the sterile and unappealing new capital of Brazil, and the heedless bacchanalia of Carnaval; Vinicius's vision of the lower rings of Hades as a bureaucrat's office is a stroke of pure genius. I first saw this film when I was in high school; viewing it again as an adult steeped in Brazilian popular culture, I certainly got a lot more out of it. Although some Brazilians (prominently, Caetano Veloso) chafe at the fact that this version was directed by a European, director Marcel Camus, I think it's still safe to say that it is a brilliantly made film. Heavy on the textual symbolism and, yes, a bit voyeuristic in its depictation of the happy natives dancing to their catchy samba rhythms, but brilliant nonetheless. It also captures a moment in time -- Brazil's transition into a modern nation, and the heady days before the 1964 coup -- in a way that is precious and ineffable."
Heartbreakingly beautiful, bosa nova, carnival!
R. Gawlitta | 11/30/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a re-telling of the Orpheus legend, set in Rio during Carnival (Brazilian Mardi Gras). An unremitting stream of bosa nova rhythms serves as a pulsebeat, quieted only during interludes of lyric beauty -- and a few of numbing horror. Not everyone is captivated by the film, however. It's a bit clumsy in its translation of the myth, and the sentiment verges at times on the sentimental. For those open to the charms of an innocent love story, ravishing music, and a dazzling carnival setting, Black Orpheus is an unparalleled experience. PS -- Important to see the subtitled version, rather than an earlier English dubbing; the sound of Portuguese, spoken and sung, is essential to the film's "music." -- JJR"