Black Orpheus

Black Orpheus

4.3 17

Cast: Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn, Lea Garcia

     
 

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Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) is literally what its title suggests: a retelling of the "Orpheus and Eurydice" legend enacted by black performers. This time the setting is the annual Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Orpheus (Breno Mello) is a streetcar conductor; Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) has just jilted her lover and is attempting to escape his wrath. OrpheusSee more details below

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Overview

Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) is literally what its title suggests: a retelling of the "Orpheus and Eurydice" legend enacted by black performers. This time the setting is the annual Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Orpheus (Breno Mello) is a streetcar conductor; Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) has just jilted her lover and is attempting to escape his wrath. Orpheus himself falls in love with Eurydice, whereupon her ex-lover, disguised as the Angel of Death shows up and kills Eurydice. To reclaim his lost love, Orpheus enters "Hell" (the Rio morgue) and uses supernatural methods to revive the dead girl. A multi-award winner on the international film scene, Black Orpheus features a samba musical score by Luiz Bonfa and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Black Orpheus was something of a phenomenon of its time, an international success with a best-selling soundtrack that was crucial to launching a bossa nova craze in the United States. It won the Palme d'Or at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and the 1960 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Since then, the novelty of seeing Rio de Janeiro's Carnival played out backed by the strains of seductive Brazilian jazz has worn off, revealing a winningly energetic movie with some noticeable faults. Director Marcel Camus reworks the Orpheus myth for no discernible reason, and while the straightforward transliteration is agreeably unpretentious, he doesn't add much to the story. The Technicolor cinematography is notable for its vivacious use of saturated colors and real-life location shooting in Rio's favelas and mountainous countryside. The choreography of people and color in front of the camera is well executed, but not much is done with the camera itself. There is little movement and the action occasionally feels constrained by the frame. During moments of play, when the characters are flirting, dancing, or playing music, the filmmaking gels into a sensual reverie, but in moments of seriousness the movie feels rather pedestrian, and the actors in particular are drab and unconvincing. However, time has not effected Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa's charming samba score and it's hard to be too disappointed in a movie that begins and ends with the upward lilt of "Samba de Orfeo."

Product Details

Release Date:
08/17/2010
UPC:
0715515059114
Original Release:
1959
Rating:
NR
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
A
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
1:47:00
Sales rank:
234

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack; Archival interviews with director Marcel Camus and actress Marpessa Dawn; New video interviews with Brazilian cinema scholar Robert Stam, jazz historian Gary Giddins, and Brazilian author Ruy Castro; Looking for "Black Orpheus" a French documentary about Black Orpheus's cultural and musical roots and its' resonance in Brazil today; Theatrical trailer; Optional English-dubbed soundtrack; New and improved English subtitle translation; Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson

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