Black Orpheus (1959)

aka Orfeu Negro
Article 1918 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-15-2006
Posting Date: 11-12-2006
Directed by Marcel Camus
Featuring Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn, Lourdes de Oliveiria

Set against the backdrop of the Carnaval at Rio de Janeiro, Orpheus (whose music makes the sun rise) meets and falls in love with Eurydice, not knowing that Death is on her trail.

Neither of the two versions of the Orpheus legend (the other being the Cocteau movie ) are straightforward versions of the old Greek myth; they are as different from the original story as they are from each other. This one is vigorously told, brimming with the energy of the people and the place, and, though it can’t be strictly called a musical, it is drenched in music and dance. It makes beautiful use of color, and the energy is infectious and almost exhausting at times. The story is alternately comic, exciting and moving, and there are some stunning scenes set in the hills over Rio de Janeiro. It’s one of those movies that might work just as well without the subtitles; it’s power and energy would translate without the help of literal translation. It could be argued that, despite the fantastic content of the original myth, there isn’t much in the way of fantastic content in this one, though there is a native religious ceremony that serves as the metaphoric backdrop for the descent of Orpheus into Hades to retrieve Eurydice (the dog at the gate is named Cerberus) that might qualify. At any rate, this is a memorable and unique viewing experience that really places you in another world during its running time.



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