Black Orpheus

A part of this view­ing listCriterion Collection Spine #48: Marcel Camus’s Black Orpheus.

I tried watch­ing this many years ago, but wasn’t in the right frame of mind to get through it. I’m glad I gave it an­oth­er shot, be­cause it’s a won­der­ful movie. The myth of Orpheus & Eurydice is my fa­vorite, and it trans­lates per­fect­ly to Rio dur­ing Carnaval. Orpheus as the Babylon bus dri­ver, good with the ladies, the man who makes the sun rise with his gui­tar play­ing. Eurydice, new to the city, seem­ing­ly in­no­cent, but with some­thing dark on her tail. Not on­ly does the set­ting trans­late well, but the death-revenant-af­ter­life fits the­mat­i­cal­ly with the Candomble re­li­gious prac­tices as well.

Throughout the film, ges­tures and acts that would nor­mal­ly be passed off as sim­ple su­per­sti­tion pack a bit more mythic punch, and, as it turns out, are just as ef­fi­ca­cious dieget­i­cal­ly. Promises and claims that, in the mun­dane world, would just ap­pear to be blus­ter, are true tragedy as the myth un­folds. This mix­ing of nat­u­ral and su­per­nat­u­ral is made pos­si­ble by the near­ly in­ces­sant beat of mu­sic that per­me­ates the film.

The film is so well put to­geth­er, and the par­al­lels with Brazilian cul­ture so spot on that it would make more sense if the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice had ac­tu­al­ly orig­i­nat­ed from Brazil and not Greece. And it makes you want to dance.

One thought on “Black Orpheus

  1. My last room­mate in­tro­duced me to this a few years ago. The in­evitable con­clu­sion was so dev­as­tat­ing, the sound­track is in­cred­i­ble, and that end­ing with the kids gets me every time.

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