Criterion Collection: Orpheus

Criterion Collection: Orpheus

5.0 1
Director: Jean Cocteau

Cast: Jean Cocteau, Jean Marais, Marie Déa, François Perier


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Cinematic poet Jean Cocteau explored the myth of Orpheus on no fewer than three occasions: Le Sang d'Un Poete (Blood of a Poet, 1930), Orphee (Orpheus, 1949) and Le Testament d'Orphee (1960). This second of his "Orpheus" trilogy stars Jean Marais in the title role. Updated to contemporary Paris (albeit a Paris never seen before orSee more details below

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Cinematic poet Jean Cocteau explored the myth of Orpheus on no fewer than three occasions: Le Sang d'Un Poete (Blood of a Poet, 1930), Orphee (Orpheus, 1949) and Le Testament d'Orphee (1960). This second of his "Orpheus" trilogy stars Jean Marais in the title role. Updated to contemporary Paris (albeit a Paris never seen before or since), the story concerns a sensitive young poet named Orpheus, who is married to the lovely Eurydice (Marie Dea). Orpheus' friend Cegeste (Edouard Dermit) is killed in a traffic accident. In the hospital morgue, Cegeste's patroness, The Princess of Death (Maria Casares), revives the young man; then, both Cegeste and Princess pass into the Underworld. Back on earth, Orpheus receives cryptic messages from Cegeste's spirit, as well as nocturnal visitations from the Princess. Meanwhile, Orpheus' wife enters into an affair with Heurtebise (Francois Perier). After seeking advice on her mixed-up love life, Eurydice is herself struck down and killed by the same cyclist who snuffed out Cegeste's life. It appears to Heurtebise that the ghostly Princess has claimed Eurydice so that she, the Princess, can be free to love Orpheus. Heurtebise persuades Orpheus to accompany him into the Underworld in hopes of returning Eurydice to life. By now, however, Orpheus cares little for his wife; he is completely under the Princess' spell. Offered her own liberation from the Underworld by the powers-that-be, the Princess dolefullly agrees to restore Eurydice to life, and to never have anything to do with Orpheus again. Orpheus has weathered much controversy to take its place among the director's most acclaimed works. Originally released at 112 minutes, the film was whittled down to 95 minutes for its American release.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
The second of filmmaker Jean Cocteau's films about the myth of Orpheus is the most accessible and well-crafted. The Criterion DVD is the best way to experience the film, especially for cinematographer Nicolas Hayer's noir-ish black-and-white imagery. Jean Marais, usually more a screen icon than persuasive actor, is a bit overwrought as Orpheus, but everyone in the supporting cast is solid, especially Maria Casares as the alluring Princess of Death and Francois Perier as Heurtibise, her lovestruck chauffeur. Cocteau expands on some of the themes he suggested in Blood of a Poet concerning the struggle of the artist to understand his role in the physical world and what death may entail, and he continues to explore his fascination with mirrors as portals between this life and the afterlife. Setting the film in the present allows Cocteau to employ one witty touch: Orpheus sitting in the Princess' Rolls Royce, listening to the car radio, which broadcasts messages from the afterlife.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Region Code:
[B&W, Full Frame]
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Special Features

Audio commentary featuring French-film scholar James S. Williams; Jean Cocteau: autobiography of an Unknown (1984), a feature-length documentary; Jean Cocteau and His Tricks (2008), a video interview with assistant director Claude Pinoteau; 40 minutes with Jean Cocteau (1957), and interview with the director; In Search of Jazz (1956), an interview with Cocteau on the use of jazz in film; La villa Santo-Sospir (1951), a 16mm color film by Cocteau; Gallery of images by French-film portrait photographer Roger Corbeau; Raw newsreel footage from 1950 of the Saint-Cyr military academy ruins, a locatin used in the film; Theatrical trailer; Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by author Mark Polizzotti, an excerpted article by Cocteau on the film, and an essay on La villa Santo-Sospir by Williams

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jean Marais Orpheus
Marie Déa Eurydice
François Perier Heurtebise
Maria Casarés The Princess
Juliette Gréco Aglaonice
Roger Blin The Writer
Edouard Dermit Cegeste
Jean Cocteau Narrator
Renee Cosima Bacchante
Jean-Pierre Melville Hotel Manager
Henri Cremieux The Man
Pierre Bertin The Inspector
Jacques Varennes The First Judge
Claude Mauriac Actor

Technical Credits
Jean Cocteau Director,Screenwriter
Georges Auric Score Composer
Jean D'Eaubonne Art Director
Emil Darbon Producer
Nicolas Hayer Cinematographer
Jacqueline Sadoul Editor

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Orpheus
1. Titles/Prologue [3:16]
2. The Lion's Den [7:38]
3. Usual Route [2:51]
4. "You Are the Death" [5:17]
5. Orpheus Returns [7:49]
6. Eurydice and Heurtebise [4:11]
7. "Resting on My Laurels" [6:47]
8. Pursuit of the Princess [5:54]
9. Eurydice in Danger [7:57]
10. Mirrors Are Doors [6:23]
11. Ruins of Habits [:19]
12. Supreme Tribunal [2:51]
13. Forever [6:20]
14. Out of Sight [4:56]
15. Beware of Mirrors [6:51]
16. Sacrifice [5:01]
17. Condemnation [8:31]
18. Color Bars [2:56]
1. In His Own Hand [3:16]
2. Cocteau's Own Myth [7:38]
3. Echoes of the War [2:51]
4. "Cinématographe" [5:17]
5. The Zone [7:49]
6. Objets d'art [4:11]
7. Thirty-Eight, Thirty-Nine, Forty [6:47]
8. New Urbanization [5:54]
9. Meticulous Discipline [7:57]
10. Misogyny [6:23]
11. Saint-Cyr [:19]
12. Three Judges [2:51]
13. Guardian Angel [6:20]
14. Farce [4:56]
15. The Next Morning [6:51]
16. Rituals [5:01]
17. The Human Mire [8:31]
18. Color Bars [2:56]

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