Black Orpheus (1959)

PG   |    |  Drama, Fantasy, Music


Black Orpheus (1959) Poster

A retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, set during the time of the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.

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7.5/10
8,690

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  • Marpessa Dawn and Breno Mello in Black Orpheus (1959)
  • Marpessa Dawn and Breno Mello in Black Orpheus (1959)
  • Lourdes de Oliveira in Black Orpheus (1959)
  • Aurino Cassiano and Jorge Dos Santos in Black Orpheus (1959)
  • Breno Mello in Black Orpheus (1959)
  • Marpessa Dawn in Black Orpheus (1959)

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30 May 2006 | marissas75
8
| Rio de Janeiro, where myths become real
If it does nothing else, seeing "Black Orpheus" will make you want to pack up immediately and go to Rio de Janeiro. The movie convinces you that the city's sparkling harbor and dramatic green hills must be one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, especially when accompanied by a soundtrack of energetic samba and smooth bossa nova music. The cliffside shantytowns teem with vitality, and are never too poor to rig up an elaborately costumed samba show for Carnival. Even the fact that the movie retells a tragic Greek myth barely detracts from the overall effect. It makes Rio seem even more magical, a place where archetypal stories of love and death still hold their power.

In this version, Orfeu (Breno Mello) is a streetcar conductor who moonlights as a musician, and Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) is an innocent country girl. The movie starts as a simple love triangle (Orfeu has an inconvenient fiancée) but becomes increasingly surreal as it progresses. Death, represented by a man in a skeleton suit, literally pursues Eurydice while going unnoticed by everyone else, who may assume he is just dressed up for Carnival. (His motivations are never explained, but perhaps he is jealous of Eurydice's youth and beauty.) The movie finds clever ways to depict the events of the original legend, and adds a wonderful sense of atmosphere, as Orfeu goes through the "underworld" in the middle of the night.

Lourdes de Oliveira and Léa Garcia give vivid supporting performances, as, respectively, Orfeu's jealous fiancée and Eurydice's exuberant cousin. I also liked the two scrappy, unsentimental street kids who idolize Orfeu.

Overall, "Black Orpheus" is a successful attempt to place a Greek myth in a modern context, retaining the story's original tragedy while adding new, contrasting flavors and rhythms. I would especially recommend it to fans of Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge," another color- and-music-saturated film with a love story inspired by the Orpheus legend.

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