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aka - Orfeu Negre
France 1959
Directed by
Marcel Camus
107 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Black Orpheus

The Orpheus legend, which has been filmed a few times, notably in the Jean Cocteau 1949 high art version Orpheus, is here transposed to the more accessible context of Rio De Janeiro at the time of Carnival, in this huge international success which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and the Palme D'Or at Cannes in its year of release.

Orpheus (Breno Mello) is now a happy--go-lucky tram driver and ladies' man,Orfeo and Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn, the director's wife) is a naive country girl who comes to the city to stay with her sister. It is Carnival time, Orfeo falls in love with Eurydice but, as we know, that love is doomed.

With music by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Louis Bonfa the film was a key catalyst in the era’s romance with all things Latin American. Today's viewers may find the idealized depiction of Rio’s carefree brown-skinned poor more than a little dated in its Eurocentricism  and the film which was adapted from a play by Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes loses the myth’s classical gravitas in extended scenes of bossa nova-ing natives. If that is your primary motivation for watching the film you won't be disappointed. If not, stick to Cocteau's version.




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